On more than one occasion I have heard rumblings that the St. Louis Blues may be facing money problems in the very near future. Which begs the question: Do they panic and change course? Will they panic and change course?
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The Blues have stressed patience, drafting and developing of a nucleus of young players, many of whom still have not reached the NHL.
How long can the Blues afford the luxury of patience in a financially strapped economy in a financially strapped city?
History has taught us in St. Louis that ownerships walk in singing one tune and will abruptly leave the scene singing a completely different song. The Blues record books are littered with great players who have merely passed through St. Louis on their way to bigger and better things elsewhere.
Players have been moved to save money, others were sacrificed in panic moves to cover other moves that didn’t pan out. Arbirtrators and baby sitters have all played parts in player dealings over the years.
In 1983 Ralston Purina abandoned the Blues franchise which meant that the Blues had no representative to draft on their behalf. The Blues missed an entire player draft.
How long can we anticipate that Dave Checketts and John Davidson will be able to stay the course with their plan of attack?
Checketts is not the money man in the Blues ownership. He is the front man, the face of ownership. But this is not his money. The Blues ownership is a group of investors.
How long do they plan to stay invested?
St. Louis is not a hockey-money-making-machine. Attendance and excitement were at a fever pitch in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the Blues were a limited success on the ice during the Bill Laurie, Larry Pleau and Joel Quenneville era. But lack of playoff success drained the finances of Bill Laurie and he left the Blues at the side of the road.
Attendance has bounced back but the Blues have worked feverishly to reduce prices and give away food and seat alike in efforts to fill the building. What the Blues have in volume, they lack in revenue. Sponsorships are minimal, corporate support and sales of luxury boxes and group boxes appear lackluster at best. St. Louis isn’t in the situation that Detroit is, but large corporations have left or have been acquired by other out-of-town groups in alarming numbers.
In short, the one revenue stream that the Blues desperately need in order to remain a viable commodity is the one they can’t seem to get their hands on – playoff gate revenue. Playoff home games are an economic boon for teams to make or break their bottom line. The Blues haven’t qualified for the post season post-lockout and don’t appear to be able to break that trend this season.
The Blues are on the right path of patience, drafting and developing of assets and may two years from now be one of the premier franchises of the NHL. The Board of Governors recently were given a “wake up call” from economists that project a continuation of the economic recession that grips the United States and has driven down the value of the Canadian dollar. All indicators are that the NHL salary cap will more than likely drop after next season. Leaving many teams with expensive and long term contracts.
Will the Blues be able to remain patient and stay the course? Or will investors grow weary of the lack of success on the ice during this painful growing time and push the powers that be to make a push to get into a playoff round or two.
I hope for the very best. I fear the very worst. As a fan of this franchise for over thirty years – it’s how I’ve been conditioned.
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