Today is an important day in Blues history. Players are coming back into town, the season is getting very close to starting, and perhaps a cup finals appearance is in the works for the first time in decades. Furthermore, in 1986 on this day, Bernie Federko became the first Blue to score 300 goals against the Hartford Whalers. So when I hear that at the St. Louis Mills, a familiar group of players is back on the ice, I get all tingly inside.
The Blues informal practice saw David Perron, David Backes, Andy McDonald, Alex Pietrangelo, Barrett Jackman, Scott Nichol, Brian Elliott, and Jamie Langenbrunner take the ice together. What is particularly nice about this group is the amount of veterans. These guys are here and ready to get back into full playing condition. They are committed to winning and this could very well be their year.
On the flip side, the marketing staff and front office of the Blues have a whole lot of work cut out for them as well. Tom Still almost immediately issued a statement to the fans, but it won’t stop there. After the lost season of 2004-05, the Blues ownership was also a new group. That group had a much larger hill to climb when they took the team over. The Blues weren’t defending division champions then, they didn’t have a young core that is in prim condition to win a cup, and they didn’t have buzz around them. Back then, the ownership also had to start winning fans back at the same time the Cardinals were making a playoff run and the Rams were playing. The Blues are lucky enough this time to have no major sports teams competing for attention in St. Louis.
Still, there were gimmicks last time around that got fans in the seats and changed the way the experience of Blues hockey was enjoyed. Once again “When the Blues Go Marching In” was sung before the game. They introduced a mascot for the first time that was an instant hit, not to mention letting the fans name him. They had the first ever free food game, the first of its kind in all sports. Ticket prices were slashed and ads were placed all over the city. This time around I expect Stillman and company to place ads all over the place again as they re-establish their corporate sponsorships and partnerships, but it will be interesting to see what else is included.
One option that I think would really bring fans back into Scottrade would be ticket deals. Not necessarily lower prices, as the club probably can’t afford to cut prices given the Blues have some of the lowest in the league, but free items attached to those tickets. Say you buy two lower bowl seats, you get a free hat (even if it is a Weenie hat). Or if you buy two upper bowl seats you get $10 of concessions that count toward anything including beer. Make us want to buy tickets. Open Scottrade up to a public skate after games for all lower bowl ticket holders one night and all upper bowl the next. Make us feel like we are part of the team again.
This blog’s name is after a great advertising campaign that won the heart of St. Louis. I do Bleed Blue. I don’t care what month it is, what the standings say, or whether players and owners are arguing on how to split the money we give them, I am a Blues fan. I always will be. This team owes it to the city to make us all feel like Blues again. We have local ownership, players who like to retire in St. Louis even if they no longer play on the team, we have a city that is die hard and in love with their sports, so give us what we deserve.
Give us a giveaway every night. Make it something we actually want. Calendars, mugs, hats, shirts, and other things we can use to show our pride in the team. Give us beer, free ticket offers, signed merch, and the sense that we matter more than anything. Make the players available after games for autographs, or make it before games. We want to interact with them. Have an open house and let us tour the locker room and get to meet some of the team and executive staff.
I don’t know what ownership is going to do to win back fans, but I hope it is more than a few gimmicks and time. I hope they make us want to come back. Today is the beginning of a new era of Blues hockey. Today is history in the making. LET’S GO BLUES!