One week ago today, the St. Louis Blues held a press conference to announce what had become a very badly-kept secret – NHL Hall of Fame member (and 11+ season Blues member) Brett Hull had been hired by the organization as their Executive Vice President.
I cannot begin to express to you how giddy this makes me as a longtime fan of the Blues. Take away the fact that Hull will likely not be directly involved with player personnel, as his primary function will be in marketing and sales of tickets and sponsorships for the team. The mere fact that Brett Hull is once again associated with the Blues is a pretty big deal. The man’s jersey number is retired, and hangs high among an elite list of players’ numbers within Scottrade (it’ll always be Kiel to me) Center. The street out in front of the venue boasts his name. For over a decade, Hull cemented himself as the unquestioned face of the franchise.
I’ve been a Blues fan for as long as I can recall, having gone to various games with my dad at the old St. Louis Arena prior to its closure and implosion (my in-person account of the implosion event is suitable for another blog in itself). While being a fan of the team as a whole, there were a handful of specific players who lured me in and got/kept me hooked. Guys like Brendan Shanahan. Geoff Courtnall. Craig Janney. Curtis Joseph. Adam Oates. Kelly Chase and Tony Twist (two of the most impressive enforcers I’ve ever witnessed play the game). Above all of them, Brett Hull was THE guy with the spotlight on him. A great assist guy, master of the one-timer, and fearless captain for multiple seasons. He was an opposing goaltender’s nightmare.
To this day, I still hold a fair amount of disdain towards Mike Keenan for his less-than-stellar relationship with Hull during his time as Blues head coach. Unfortunately, even after Keenan was out of the picture, I still saw my favorite player leave my team – and all because of the refusal of management/ownership to provide a no-trade clause in his contract in 1998. While it pained me to see him end up in Dallas, it really burned to see him ultimately end up with rival Detroit (and to win the Stanley Cup with both teams). I was happy for his success, but admittedly bitter that he wasn’t able to have that success with St. Louis.
Would the Blues have been able to go on and win a cup had they held onto Hull? We’ll never know. What I do know, is this: the return of my childhood favorite to my hockey team managed to take my already die-hard loyalty to the St. Louis Blues and elevate it even higher. Preseason games are already underway, with the season/home opener a mere 17 days away. My grumblings over the lackluster playoff performance earlier this year is behind me, and I’m ready for 2013/2014. The passion of my inner child has been reignited, and that fire burns brighter than ever now.