St Louis Blues

Wed, 18 Mar 2009 07:37

History of St. Louis Blues

Information about the NHL team St. Louis Blues.


1967-70

When the National Hockey League expanded in 1967, the St. Louis Blues were one of the teams that have been added. Of the six new teams that were added to the leagues, only the Blues, the Los Angeles Kings, and the California Seals have not won a Stanley Cup.

The St. Louis Blues were the last of the six teams to gain entry into the league through the help of the Chicago Blackhawks. The St. Louis Blues was chosen over Baltimore through the efforts of the Wirtz family who own the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Arena. Wanting to unload the St. Louis Arena that wasn't maintained in for almost 30 years, the Wirtz family persuaded the NHL to choose to give the franchise to St. Louis instead of Baltimore.

The first owners of the St. Louis Blues were Sid Salomon Jr., Sid Salomon III, and Robert L. Wolfson.  It was Sid III who influenced his father to bid for the team. After winning the bid, millions of dollars were spent by the Salomons to renovate the St. Louis Arena and increase its seating capacity from 12000 to 15000.

The first coach of the St. Louis Blues is Lynn Patrick. After his quick resignation, he was replaced by Scotty Bowman. Despite some of the rules of the NHL regarding having star players, the St. Louis Blues were able to get a good position in the Western Division of the league. Although the Blues were not able to win the Stanley Cup during their first three seasons, they were able to reach the championship rounds for three consecutive years. In 1968 and 1969, they lost against the Montreal Canadiens, and in 1970 against the Boston Bruins.

The original players of the St. Louis Blues included Doug Harvey, Dickie Moore, Don McKenney, Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall. In 1970, the Blues won the Lady Byng Trophy with Phil Goyette and Red Berenson, formerly of the New York Rangers, playing for the team.


1970-77

During this period, the playoff format of the National Hockey League was changed. The Chicago Black hawks were also moved to the Western Division, which was still considered inferior at that time. The St. Louis Blues lost some if its original member either through trade or retirement. During Berenson's trade, the former Detroit Red Wings player Gary Unger became a part of the team and scored 30 goals consecutively for eight seasons.

The 1973-74 season was the first time the Blues missed the playoffs. During the realignment, the team was moved to the Smythe Division, which also happened to be another weak division. They won in 1976-77 with five games below .500. That, however, was their last appearance in the playoffs within that decade.

As a franchise, the team had to face financial challenges. This can be mostly attributed to the owners' financial decisions when they got the franchise. It was also partly caused by the pressures from the World Hockey Association. There was a time that the staff for the team was reduced to three. Emile Francis, who was the team's president also had to serve as its manager and coach.

1977-83

Ralston Purina of the pet food business purchased the franchise of the team from the Salomons in 1977. At the same time, the St. Louis Arena was renamed the “Checkerdome.” It was minority owner Robert Wolfson and Emile Francis who arranged a deal with Ralston Purina. In 1980, the team was able to make it to the playoffs. In 1981, with the team being coached by Berenson, Mike Liut (goaltender) got the second best record during the whole league with 107 points and 45 wins. The Blues players during this time include: Wayne Babych, Bernie Federko, and Brian Sutter.

Purina was spending about $1.8 million every year for their St. Louis Blues franchise. The company took this expense as part of their civic responsibility. However, when Purina chairman R. Hal Dean retired in 1983, the new chairman would like to return their focus on pet food business and was not interested in keeping the team. During the NHL Entry Draft of 1983, the team was not able to get anyone because there was no representative from Purina. A group of investors being led by Bill Hunter, founder of Edmonton Oilers and WHA, was willing to buy the team. However, the National Hockey League did not agree to his plan to move the team to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Purina closed the Checkerdome and allowed the NHL to be in charge of the Blues. The St. Louis Blues was saved by Harry Ornest, a businessman from Los Angeles, when he purchased the franchise on July 27, 2983. After this, the Checkerdome was renamed back into St. Louis Arena.


1983-1996

Ornest had set aside a small budget for the St. Louis Blues. But most of the players did not mind because they wanted to play for St. Louis. During most of this period, only 26 players were under contract for the Blues while most of the NHL teams have more than 60 under contract.

With Doug Gilmour being the star player of the team, the Blues stayed competitive even though they have limited budget. The Blues, however, did not finish more than six games over .500.

Many of the young Blues players, including Rob Ramage and Doug Gilmour, later played for the Calgary Flames. In 1986, the Blues played against the Calgary Flames during the Campbell Conference Finals. Although Doug Wickenheiser was able to make a comeback in Game 6 (known as the “Monday Night Miracle”), the team still lost Game 7. After the season, the St. Louis Blues were sold to a businessman from St. Louis, Michael Shanahan.

During this time, the Blues were competitive although they never won the second round of the payoffs. Their General Manager, Ron Caron made the brilliant decision to include Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Adam Oates, Curtis Joseph and Al MacInnis into the team. The St. Louis Blues' performance on the ice was enough for a consortium of 19 companies to decide to buy the team. The consortium also provided capital for building the Kiel Center (the present Scottrade Center), which was opened in 1994.

Brett Hull, nicknamed “Golden Brett,” got the Hart Memorial Trophy for being the most valuable player of the league in 1990-91 for scoring 86 goals. That was the third highest score any NHL player got in any season.

1997-2006

Mike Keenan was hired as the general manager and the coach for the team in 1995. He made controversial decisions including the trade off of some of the crowd's favorite players. This still resulted in an unsatisfactory performance of the team. He was fired by the end of 1996 and Caron returned as the Blue's general manager. Even though the team encountered various challenges, the Blues still had a strong presence during the playoffs from 1980 up to 2004. In 1999, Nancy Walton Laurie (Wal-Mart heir) and her husband purchased the team. However, in 2006, they sold the Blues to the SCP and Towerbrook Capital Partners, L.P. John Davidson was then installed as the president of hockey operations.

2006-present

After the 2005-06 season, the management started to rebuild the franchise. In December 2006, Andy Murray, from the Los Angeles Kings, replaced Mike Kitchen as coach. After several player trade-offs, the team finalized its roster in October 2, 2007. In October 10, the Blues also introduced Louie, their new mascot.

On February 8, 2008, Eric Brewer became the 19th team captain of the St. Louis Blues.