Nothing sells a professional sports franchise more than wins.
Delavan native Brad Alberts wants to see that happen again.
Alberts, a 1988 graduate of Delavan-Darien High School and 1992 graduate of Ripon College, is president and CEO of the Dallas Stars. The Stars are a win away from earning the Western Conference berth in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Alberts began working for the Stars, along with the Texas Rangers baseball team, as a ticket sales officer in 1994.
Twenty-four years later, he had worked his way up to president. That’s not bad for someone who never played the sport and who spent the first 22 years of his life 950 miles north of Dallas.
Alberts grew up playing basketball, baseball and football. He held the Delavan-Darien High record for made 3-pointers in a season (60) for 25 years until it was broken in 2014.
He earned All-Southern Lakes Conference first-team honors two years, and was All-SLC in baseball his junior season. He also was a co-captain of the Comets football team as a senior, and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
Alberts went to Ripon College, and played basketball. There he earned All-Midwest Conference honors three times and earned a spot on the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District team twice. When he graduated in 2002, he held four school records, and his 1,865 career points still is the third highest at the school.
Did you notice that hockey is not among his sports? Alberts runs the business side of the Stars, and he knows business. He graduated from Northern Colorado in 1994 with a Master’s Degree in sports administration.
“I’ve been around the NHL now for 20 years,” Alberts said. “I’ve gotten to love the NHL. I understand it even though I didn’t play. It’s a great sport and full of great people. You don’t have to know how to skate.”
After graduation he moved to the Dallas area. His wife, Kate, grew up in Freedom and went to Appleton Xavier High before her family moved to the Dallas area.
Brad met Kate through one of his teammates at Ripon College, Kory Schneider, who also was from Freedom. The Alberts’ house was within a long slap shot from both the Stars and Rangers headquarters, so Brad introduced himself one day and requested a job.
He was offered the ticket sales position, worked hard and moved up the ladder in both the Rangers and Stars organizations.
Everything was going great. Then February and the coronavirus rolled into everyone’s life. The NHL suspended operations. Alberts had the difficult task to furlough some of the club’s employees.
Then the racial unrest crested. When the eight remaining NHL teams decided to postpone playoff games as a form of protest against systemic racism and police brutality, Alberts and the organization faced a backlash from some of their Texas fan base. Some season-ticket holders—both individuals and company accounts—said they would not renew because of the NHL and team support of Black Lives Matter and protests over racial inequality.
“But we/I stand by our organization’s commitment and support our players 100% to express their views,” Alberts said at the time.
t has not been the best of times for Alberts.
I’ll tell you what,” Alberts said. “This has been the most challenging time period. I’m not alone.
“You can ask Barry Alvarez, and he’ll tell you the same thing. This is the biggest challenge any of us has ever faced. And we’re not out of it yet, and that’s a problem. It’s been an incredibly difficult and challenging time frame for a lot of reasons.”
Alberts has put in a lot of work to develop the fan base in Texas. The Stars own nine two-sheet hockey rinks in the Dallas area to promote youth hockey, and has made progress turning the football-crazed state into puckheads.
“The job of selling and marketing hockey in Texas—and we have the American Hockey League team that is ours down in Austin—is not easy,” Alberts said. “But we had the Winter Classic in Dallas on January 1st. We played outside in the Cotton Bowl, and we had 85,000 people that packed that place.
“Dallas has turned into a great hockey community.”
The Stars won the Stanley Cup in 2002, and is in the playoffs most every season.
This year, the team signed NHL veteran and all-star Joe Pavelski. Pavelski grew up in Plover, attended and played at the University of Wisconsin and owns a small percentage of the Janesville Jets.
The Stars signed Pavelski to a three-year, $21 million contract after he had played 13 seasons with the San Jose Sharks.
“I played golf with Joe right before they left to go to Edmonton,” Alberts said of the “bubble city” where the Western Conference playoff teams played the past few weeks. “He’s a helluva golfer. We were talking about Wisconsin. He grew up in Plover but he went to SPASH for high school. He and his family are going to live in Madison when he’s done.
“He’s a great guy. A great player, great career and a good man.”
Alberts’ father, Bill, coached Brad growing up and still helps out at Delavan-Darien High.
Brad hasn’t been in the area due to the pandemic. He couldn’t go to Edmonton, and would have to quarantine if he went there now.
So he will be like the vast majority of sports fans, having to watch the Stars attempt to close out their Western Conference final series against the Las Vegas Golden Knights on television. The Stars lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 with Game 5 set for 7 o’clock tonight.
One more win would put the Stars into the Finals. Tampa Bay leads the New York Islanders 3-1 in the Eastern Conference series.
Alberts would rather have the Stars playing in their home arena in Dallas, but he is enjoying the team’s success as the team’s CEO.
“Coming from Delavan and Ripon, I would have never dreamed I would be president and CEO of the Dallas Stars,” Alberts said. “But that is how life goes, and that is where life took me. I took advantage of it and worked hard.”
Tom Miller is a sports writer/page designer for The Gazette. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org