St. Louis has been home to a storied NHL franchise since 1967, but that history is not all that matters. In a city where baseball is king and football gets more attention than deserved, the Blues have always been somewhat of a bonus to St. Louis sports fans. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of us that live and breathe hockey in the gateway city, but many of the seats in Scottrade are filled with fair weather fans or sports fans enjoying a break from their normal routine.
The impact of the lost season in 2004-05 was one that almost saw a total collapse of the team’s support. The new leadership of the team did a great job in getting the fan base to return by using promotions like free food nights, introducing a mascot, and launching major advertising campaigns throughout the city, but the results only really paid off the last couple years. There was a long time when you could get all-inclusive club seats on craigslist for $25 because no one wanted to go and see the Blues play (admittedly, I wouldn’t mind getting great seats for next to nothing again, but at what cost?). Luckily, the young Blues team had grown into their own the last couple years and having two stints in the playoffs and an incredible year last season has led many people back to the Blues, but what could a lost season do to the team this time around?
The St. Louis Cardinals won a world series in 2011, and then made a run to the NLCS in October this year giving those fringe fans a distraction, but now we are almost into December and those fans are following a lack-luster football team whose glory days were short lived. Cities like New York, Detroit, St. Paul, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, and the entire nation of Canada will be fine. Their fans live and breathe hockey, their children play hockey, their wives speak the jargon, their bosses find common interests with them through the sport, but that is not the case in St. Louis and many of the small market areas. Teams in Nashville, Phoenix, the state of Florida, Anaheim, and even the reigning champs in Los Angeles are really going to suffer whenever hockey starts back up. These teams are going to have to spend a lot, cut the price of tickets, and do everything they can to win games in order to get fans back. This process will hurt the sport and cause teams to enter make it or break it mentalities.
St. Louis just went through another ownership transition, so who knows what the future holds for the Blues. Maybe Tom Stillman and his cast of local owners can afford to lose the fringe fan base, but remember Davidson is in Columbus now because they couldn’t afford him. Who is going to be the face that brings the people back? Sure, the Blues have a bright future and a growing cast of young players that will keep the team competing for years to come, so maybe it will be a different story. That was surely not the case after 2004-05 when the Blues were filled with veterans and players with little to no upside.
The impact reaches further than losing fans though as the city itself is suffering during this lockout. KMOX reports that, “In addition to the vendors who depend on sales and tips to make ends meet, the city of St. Louis also comes out a loser in the dispute between owners and players. According to numbers provided by city officials, the loss of 20 games so far has cost the city roughly $1.7 million in tax revenue.” This lack of tax revenue will make the city less likely to back the team financially if they are in need of assistance and almost guarantees that many who would have profited from this season will not be happy to return. The loss of sponsors is a major fear, but also consider the partnerships that the team has made over the years. Ownership could be facing a situation that they will not be able to afford if they can’t sell seats and lose the profits from other areas of business.
As a fan I hope that the city will rebound, the fans will come back, and we can keep the St. Louis Blues’ reputation as one of the best fan bases in the league, but with the memory of the last lockout in mind, it may well be just wishful thinking.
In other news, Kevin Shattenkirk is on his way to Finland to join TPS Turku of the SM-Liga. Shattenkirk has put up 43 points in both of his NHL seasons and is set to be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Let’s hope Shatty can stay healthy in Finland while keeping in game ready condition.
With most of the Blues roster now playing overseas, it appears that both David Backes and Andy McDonald have been involved with the most recent CBA bargaining sessions. It is nice to see the Blues leaders at least attempting to help get a deal in place. Hopefully the pair is representing the Blues well and sharing all pertinent information with their teammates.
That is all for now Blues fans, let me know if you have any opinions on what you think the impact of the lockout will be on the St. Louis Blues. And, as always, LET’S GO BLUES!