Financially strapped owner Tom Hicks will explore possible sale of Dallas Stars

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DALLAS - Tom Hicks, the financially strapped owner of the Dallas Stars, is exploring a possible sale of the NHL team.

The Hicks Sports Group said on Thursday it has retained Galatioto Sports Partners to look for new investors and explore the idea of selling a majority stake in the NHL team.

Team president Jeff Cogen said Hicks has received "numerous" inquiries about the team, but a sale was not certain.

"I think the Dallas Stars are a model franchise, kind of the pride of the NHL relative to the Sun Belt," Cogen told The Associated Press. "I would envision that we would be a very appealing asset for the right person."

Less than a year after defaulting on US$525 million in loans backed by the Stars and baseball's Texas Rangers, Hicks has already agreed to sell the Rangers to a group led by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg. The Rangers sale awaits approval from Major League Baseball, the NHL and the group of 40 lenders holding debt from the Hicks group.

Hicks also owns half of Liverpool in the English Premier League, and government officials there have expressed concern about the debt load tied up in that franchise.

A spokeswoman for Hicks said the owner was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

Hicks bought the Stars in 1996 from Norm Green, who had moved the team from Minneapolis three years earlier. Dallas won the Stanley Cup in 1999, sparking a home sellout streak that surpassed 200 games while interest in youth hockey blossomed through several Dallas-area ice rinks run by the Stars.

But Dallas lost momentum through the NHL's work stoppage in 2004-05 and had less playoff success. The Stars have made it out of the first round just once in the past five seasons. Home sellouts that used to be certain are now rare, and they are in danger of missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since moving to Dallas.

Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said the foundation of the team was still there.

"I believe it is positioned for greatness for many years because of the youth in our system, our tradition of winning, and we have an established and enthusiastic fan base," Nieuwendyk said.

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