Good luck, Dallas, and don't let Norman Green out of your sight


MINNESOTA -- Dear Dallas: Watch out for Mr. Green.

To the good people of the Dallas-Fort Worth area:

Congratulations. You lose.

Until today, the Metroplex was on the NHL's short list of expansion sites. That means your area would have been granted a franchise within the next three to five years. As with all expansion teams, the NHL would have insisted that some local money be invested into the franchise. That translates into vTC community roots, stability and commitment to the long haul.

Instead, you are about to play host to the biggest carpetbagger since Reconstruction. Within five years, the Dallas hockey market will be scorched beyond recognition. It will be considered unfit for hockey until well into the 21st century. Maybe forever.

Congratulations. I can't come right out and say what Norman Green is going to do to y'all. But when he is finished he will light up a cigarette and ask: "Was it good for you, too?"

Oh, there will be a honeymoon period. The Minnesota North Stars are a decent hockey team. They should win enough to keep Norm's cash register jingling for a couple of years. In addition, there will be an initial burst of activity at the souvenir stand.

Meanwhile, Norman will walk the corridors of Reunion Arena schmoozing with the common folks. He'll smile and thrust out his hand and ask you how he is doing, much like former Mayor Ed Koch used to do while New York was going to hell in a bucket.

He'll kiss your babies and your secretaries. He'll give you a Stars pin. And he'll ask for your suggestions. A word of caution: Keep moving and keep your hand on your money clip.

Congratulations. You are about to be introduced to the concept of "studies." Norman is big on studies. He conducts hundreds of them. Soon, for example, he will tell you that you no longer are happy watching athletic events in Reunion Arena, even though you don't realize it.

Subsequent studies will explain why he needs a brand new facility very quickly. Still other studies will detail how you are going to pay for all this. Then he will begin to make demands. His pattern has never varied.

By the way, don't expect any sort of lease agreement to hold him. He can slip out of those the way Houdini could slip out of a straitjacket. When he gets it in his mind to move, just try not to get run over by the fleet of U-Hauls.

Congratulations. When Norman starts making those ridiculous demands and threatens to pull up stakes, don't expect any help from the NHL. If the NBA is the Cadillac of sports leagues, the NHL is the Yugo.

Norman Green is without a doubt the weakest of all the owners. Yet he ran roughshod over the commissioner, who wanted him to stay in Minnesota. And the NHL allowed him to run roughshod over thousands of Minnesotans who have faithfully supported his team in the 2 1/2 years he has been here.

Two and a half years. That's all he lasted here. Amazing how someone so new to an area can wipe out almost three decades of hockey tradition. But remember, Norman is an operator. He can make ledger numbers sing and dance and whistle "The Yellow Rose of Texas." So he'll tell you that he has lost millions here when, in fact, what he really lost was community respect.

Listen, I'm telling you this as a comrade in arms. After all, both our areas have swooped in and lifted baseball teams out of Washington, D.C. Enjoy NHL hockey while you can. Because there is no real commitment to you on Norman Green's part. His commitment is to his cash register. And like the biblical mustard seed sown onto rock, he will blow away during the first ill wind.

Congratulations. You have an NHL team.

You may never recover from it.

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