Expanded ownership gives North Stars a boost
by By Matt Mackinder | NAHL.com
When Dallas Drake skated around Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena with the Stanley Cup back in June of 2008 as a member of the Detroit Red Wings, he knew his NHL career was going out on a high note.
But even as a summer-long party ensued in Detroit, Drake quietly announced his retirement and made his way to his new home in Traverse City.
One year later, he’s a part owner of the Traverse City North Stars and enjoying his time staying in hockey, but without the spotlight.
“I love being at the rink,” said Drake. “I’m really a hockey geek and just love watching games and coaching the kids at the younger levels.”
Drake gets out into the Traverse City community to promote the North Stars and help get fans into Centre ICE arena. He said he initially came on board when founding owner Steve Fournier approached him to buy into the team.
“I’m here to help in any way I can,” said Drake, who played 15 years in the NHL. “Whether it’s sponsorships or just getting more people to the rink, I’ll do whatever I can. We have a great group of kids here who all want to play Division I hockey and the North American League is a very exciting league to watch.”
Drake was one of several new pieces brought into the North Stars’ expanded ownership group. The husband-wife team of Richard and Raj Wiener, lawyers based out of Lansing, Mich., are also new to the fold. Raj is more of the hands-on owner while Richard keeps things running at their law office in Lansing.
When asked why she decided to get involved with owning a hockey team, Raj showed her sense of humor right from the start.
“Well, I’m questioning my sanity,” she laughed. “I do a lot of the mundane stuff, like the financial aspects and not any of the on-ice things. It costs money to run a team like this; it doesn’t happen on its own.”
Over the summer, North Stars head coach and general manager Anthony Palumbo called Lansing Capitals Midget Major coach Dean Dixon for help in finding ways to keep the North Stars in Traverse City. Dixon then contacted the Wieners.
“We’ve had a home in Traverse City for 30 years, so to help out was really an easy step,” Wiener said. “Anthony runs a great program and has really built a strong team this year. He believes in getting the kids out into the community; whether it’s with Big Brothers/Big Sisters or Habitat For Humanity, everyone is always ready to help."
Raj also credits Drake for his passion for the community, the team and the NAHL.
“Dallas has just been wonderful,” said Wiener. “He brings so much knowledge to the team and really does more for the team than he lets on. Dallas is a very humble person.”
So far, Traverse City has shown it’s a contender in the league (the North Stars sit atop the North Division standings with 25 points after 17 games) and that in itself has impressed Drake, who admitted he hasn’t watched a whole lot of junior hockey the past 15 years or so.
“The teams I’ve seen come in here, like Wenatchee and Janesville, have looked very solid,” said Drake. “I think from top to bottom, the whole league has a lot of good players and they have a lot of good opportunities in this league.”
And while most teams prepare on a season-to-season basis, when it comes to ownership, that’s a totally different story.
“We came in here with a three-year plan,” explained Wiener. “The foundation for what we have now was laid by the Fourniers and we’re excited to build off of it.”