The St. Louis Blues have had plenty of stars come through their doors. None were bigger on or off the ice than Brett Hull.
As an aspiring member of the media, sometimes sports radio rubs me the wrong way. Other times, especially when mining ideas to write about the St. Louis Blues, it can be a treasure trove.
That was the case the other day. On off the cuff topic came about which pro athlete was more important to the city of St. Louis.
In a town as crazy about its sports teams as St. Louis is, the debate will surely be a hot one. While there is no true right answer, each personal answer will depend greatly on the sport you enjoy the most.
Since we are all hockey fans here, we know what the right answer is. You can argue who was the better player in their sport, but as far as impacting the city, Brett Hull is where the buck stops.
Impact on the sport
There is no downplaying how good of a player Pujols is. The man is a 10-time All-Star.
He’s a rookie of the year, three-time MVP and won a postseason MVP when the Cardinals did not even win the World Series. Oh, by the way, he also helped the St. Louis Cardinals win two World Series.
On the championship measurement alone, Hull does not quite measure up. He won two Stanley Cups, but after he left St. Louis.
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Hull still accomplished a heck of a lot in the Gateway City. In 1990-91, he won the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP voted by the writers and also the Lester B. Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsay Award) as the MVP voted on by the players.
In that aspect, he is only one behind Pujols. He’s also an eight-time All-Star and a Hall of Famer.
Beyond that though, Hull was probably the second best in the sport at the time. If not for Wayne Gretzky playing during the same period, Hull may have been regarded as the absolute best in the game.
Only Gretzky scored more goals on one season than Hull did. For all Pujols’ accomplishments, he won’t get close to baseball’s all-time homerun records and rarely came close to the regular season leads either.
People also forget how great Hull was because he played on teams that sometimes competed by his sheer will. Sure, the Blues had guys like Brendan Shanahan and Adam Oates come through. Top to bottom, they didn’t measure up many times though.
Baseball is a more individual sport, but the Cardinals have rarely hurt for talent top to bottom. The Cardinals may not throw money around like the Yankees, but they are still part of the big spenders in MLB.
The Blues never had that kind of spending power. Therefore, there were years they succeeded on Hull’s talents almost alone.
As great as Pujols is/was, and he is great, the Cardinals would have still been successful without him. Perhaps it would not have been two World Series great, but they would’ve been good.
Impact on the city
This is where Hull takes the prize. Pujols can’t claim to be the man who built Busch Stadium III. Scottrade Center is known as the House that Hull built.
The Blues, though competing on the ice, were not competing behind the scenes until Hull got to the team. Despite having some talent on their teams, like the great Bernie Federko, the Blues were likely to end up north of the border.
In 1983, the Blues were almost moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. While Hull did not arrive until five years later, as much a player can, he saved the sport in the city.
Federko was getting older and Brian Sutter had health issues. Hull and his ability to light the lamp with scary regularity helped build a new arena and keep the Blues in St. Louis for good.
Also, it is hard not to go back to the argument of a face of the game. Hull was at the top with Gretzky and Mario Lemiuex.
I’m not arguing those players were actually as good as Pujols, but just to have that many in the conversation puts him on a slightly more level playing field in his own sport.
Pujols was loved and sold a lot of jerseys, but people forget the cultural influence Hull had. Afterall, Pujols never had his own comic series.
There is no right or wrong answer here. Each has their own merits and will long live as some of the best in their franchise’s history.
In the end, the biggest separation may be to simply view it in those terms. When people think of the Blues, even today, they think of Brett Hull.
Hull stands alone for his sport. He stands alone for the city.
Brett Hull is a huge part of St. Louis.