Texas Brahmas in talks to make ownership change

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas – It’s been a very quiet off-season for the Central Hockey League’s Texas Brahmas – more so than usual. Fans of the team are used to minimal announcements during the summer, as head coach Dan Wildfong prefers to keep signings within the organization, or at least as far as leaks through the social networks will allow.
This summer has been different though. For the first time in their history, the first of August has come and gone without a single announcement touting the return of a pivotal member of the previous season’s roster, or the signing of a new player, who Wildfong believes will help to propel the team to the post-season.
The silence will end very shortly as the Brahmas organization is reportedly in the process of working out the details of a sale, which will result in the end of an era of sorts – the Stuart Fraser era.
Unless you knew him, you probably wouldn’t pick Fraser out of a crowd at the NYTEX Sports Centre as the majority owner of the club. In fact, you’d probably peg him for another longtime fan, in his Brahmas jacket, jeans and tennis shoes. A very down-to earth guy, Fraser has been involved in the Texas Brahmas ownership group since joining forces with former NHL goaltender Andy Moog in 1998, when the then Fort Worth Brahmas were a part of the Western Professional Hockey League. He has been the majority owner of the team since the 1999-00 season. A close childhood friend of Brahmas general manager Mike Barack, Fraser’s ownership of the team was the result of a lifelong passion for ice hockey. Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Fraser and Barack were fans of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, one of the six teams to enter the league in the 1967 expansion. Attending games together at the old St. Louis Arena, one of the loudest buildings in the NHL, Barack and Fraser watched the likes of Garry Unger, Wayne Babych, Bernie Federko and goaltender Mike Liut.
After finishing college at the University of Missouri in 1983, Fraser left for New York to begin his business career. Today, Fraser is the Vice Chairman of Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P., and the Executive Managing Director of Cantor Fitzgerald Securities. Cantor Fitzgerald, a private partnership, is a global financial services conglomerate and the leading provider of business to business voice and electronic marketplaces in the world with offices around the world. Fraser is the primary inventor on several U.S. Patents having to do with electronic trading systems and in 1999, Cantor used them to create eSpeed, Inc., the leading provider of real-time business to business electronic marketplace solutions.
When the opportunity to purchase the team came up, Fraser took a chance, believing it would be a fun investment.
“I thought that between me and Mike, we could figure it out, Fraser said. “It’s been difficult (laughing), to say the least. But the fun factor makes it a lot more exciting. You get to know coaches, you get to know players…It’s kind of fun, on any level.”
While relying on Barack to effectively manage the day-to-day operations of the team, Fraser has not had the time to be as directly involved as he would have liked throughout the years. During one of his trips to NYTEX, I asked Fraser about this and whether or not being a long-distance owner was somewhat detrimental to the organization.
“Well, if I had an offer for the team, I’d consider it, obviously,” Fraser said. “And that’s because I really believe that a home-grown person needs to be running the team.”
That was several years ago, and while Fraser has kept the franchise running throughout the past 13 seasons (including the 2006-07 season when the team suspended operations after failing to come to a lease agreement with the City of Fort Worth to play at the Fort Worth Convention Center), there was always the chance that he would get the right offer at the right time, to sell his majority interest.
That appears to have come to fruition. According to sources, Fraser has in fact come to a preliminary agreement to sell his stake in the club to a local ownership group.
It is believed that Dan Wildfong will be retained as head coach and general manager of the team. Throughout the process of the pending sale, Wildfong has continued to work hard to build his roster for the upcoming season, his sixth as the Brahmas bench boss.
The 36-year-old former winger for the now defunct Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs came in as a freshman head coach for the Brahmas in 2007-08 and led the underdog team to a successful run, culminating in a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Colorado Eagles in the Northern Conference Finals. The following season, Wildfong’s Brahmas seemed unstoppable as they cruised into the playoffs and won the 2009 Ray Miron President’s Cup Championship.
The Brahmas made their fifth consecutive trip to the playoffs earlier this year and their third Conference Finals under Wildfong. Though they lost to the Wichita Thunder in a Game 6 that could have gone either way, Brahmas fans came away confident in the team which had a rollercoaster season, but managed to eliminate their arch-rivals, the Allen Americans – anything after that, as many would say, was bonus hockey.
Wildfong, who is in Canada running his annual hockey camp was unavailable for comment for this article.
Few doubt that the Brahmas will make a sixth trip to the post-season following the 2012-13 campaign, no matter who owns the club. The popular adage remains among die hard Texas Brahmas fans – “In Fonger we Trust.”
Pro Hockey News will have more on this developing story over the coming days.  
Contact the writer/photographer at robert.keith@prohockeynews.com
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