St. Louis Blues Team History
The Blues were one of the six teams added to the NHL in the 1967 expansion, along with the Minnesota North Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and California Seals.
St. Louis was the last of the six expansion teams to gain entry into the league, chosen over Baltimore at the insistence of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks were owned by the influential Wirtz family of Chicago, which also owned the decrepit St. Louis Arena. The Wirtzes sought to unload the Arena, which had not been well-maintained since the 1940s, and thus pressed the NHL to give the franchise to St. Louis, which had not submitted a formal expansion bid. NHL President Clarence Campbell said during the 1967 expansion meetings that “we want a team in St. Louis because of the city’s geographical location and the fact that it has an adequate building.” The team’s first owners were insurance tycoon Sid Salomon Jr., his son, Sid Salomon III, and Robert L. Wolfson, who were granted the franchise in 1966. Sid Salomon III convinced his initially wary father to make a bid for the team. Former St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial and Musial’s business partner Julius “Biggie” Garagnani were also members of the 16-man investment group that made the initial formal application for the franchise. Garagnani would never see the Blues’ franchise take the ice, as he passed away from a heart attack on June 19, 1967, less than three months before the Blues’ played their first preseason game. Upon acquiring the franchise in 1966, Salomon then spent several million dollars on massive renovations for the 38-year-old Arena, which increased the number of seats from 12,000 to 15,000.
In the meantime, the franchise was on the brink of financial collapse. This was partly due to the pressures of the World Hockey Association, but mostly the result of financial decisions made when the Salomons first acquired the franchise. Deferred contracts came due just as the Blues’ performance began to slip. At one point, the Salomons cut the team’s staff down to three employees. One of them was Emile Francis, who served as team president, general manager and coach.
The Salomons finally found a buyer in St. Louis-based pet food giant Ralston Purina in 1977, who renamed the Arena “the Checkerdome.” Francis and minority owner Wolfson helped put together the deal with Ralston Purina, which ensured that the Blues would stay in St. Louis. Only a year after finishing with only 18 wins still the worst season in franchise history, the Blues made the playoffs in 1980, the first of 25 consecutive post-season appearances. The team’s improvement continued into 1981, when the Berenson-coached team, led by Wayne Babych (54 goals), future Hall of Famer Bernie Federko (104 points), Brian Sutter (35 goals), and goaltender Mike Liut, second to Wayne Gretzky for the Hart Trophy, finished with 45 wins and 107 points, the second-best record in the league. Their regular-season success, however, did not transfer into the playoffs, as they were eliminated by the New York Rangers in the second round. The Blues followed their generally successful 1980 – 1981 campaign with two consecutive sub-.500 seasons, though they still managed to make the playoffs each year.
Purina lost an estimated $1.8 million a year during its six-year ownership of the Blues, but took the losses philosophically, having taken over out of a sense of civic responsibility. In 1983, Purina’s longtime chairman, R. Hal Dean, retired. His successor wanted to refocus on the core pet food business, and had no interest in hockey. He saw the Blues as just another money-bleeding division, and put the team on the market. The Blues did not pick anyone in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft because Purina did not send a representative; the company basically abandoned the team. It finally found a buyer in a group of investors led by WHA and Edmonton Oilers founder Bill Hunter, who then made plans to move the team to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. However, the NHL was unwilling to lose a market as large as St. Louis and vetoed the deal. Purina then padlocked the Checkerdome and turned the team over to the league. The team appeared destined for contraction when, on July 27, 1983, Harry Ornest, a Los Angeles-based businessman, came in at the 11th hour to save the franchise. Ornest immediately reverted the name of the team’s home to the St. Louis Arena.
They also provided the capital to build the Kiel Center (now the Scottrade Center), which opened in 1994. Scottrade Center (originally Kiel Center and formerly Savvis Center) is a 19,150 seat arena located in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, opened in 1994. It is the home of the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League.
Amid several questionable personnel moves and an unstable ownership situation, the Blues finished the 2005 – 2006 season with their worst record in 27 years. They missed the playoffs for only the fourth time in franchise history. Also, for the first time in club history, the normally excellent support seen by St. Louisans began to fade away, with crowds normally numbering around 12,000, a far cry from the team’s normal high (about 18,000 in a 19,500 seat arena). Wal-Mart heir Nancy Walton Laurie and her husband Bill purchased the Blues in 1999. On June 17, 2005, the Lauries announced that they would sell the team. Bill Laurie, a former point guard at Memphis State, had long desired to buy an NBA team, and it was thought that this desire caused him to neglect the Blues. On September 29, 2005, it was announced that the Lauries had signed an agreement to sell the Blues to SCP Worldwide, a consulting and investment group headed by former Madison Square Garden president Dave Checketts. On November 14, 2005, the Blues announced that SCP Worldwide had officially withdrawn from negotiations to buy the team. On December 27, 2005, it was announced that the Blues had signed a letter of intent to exclusively negotiate with General Sports and Entertainment, LLC. However, after the period of exclusivity, SCP entered the picture again. On March 24, 2006, the Lauries completed the sale of the Blues and the lease to the Savvis Center to SCP and TowerBrook Capital Partners, L.P., a private equity firm. The Blues are currently the only team in the four major North American sports (ice hockey, basketball, baseball, and American football) to be owned by a private equity firm.
The St. Louis Blues are a professional ice hockey team in St. Louis, Missouri. They are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The team is named after the famous W. C. Handy song “Saint Louis Blues,” and plays in the 19,150-seat Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis. The franchise was founded in 1967 as an expansion team during the league’s original expansion from six to 12 teams. The Blues are the oldest NHL team never to have won the Stanley Cup.
1967 – Present National Hockey League
1967 – Present St. Louis Blues
Blues – Owner Sid Saloman Jr. selected the nickname Blues in 1967 after W.C. Handy’s song, “St. Louis Blues.” Mercury and Apollo were two of the other nicknames that were considered.
Stanley Cup 0
2007 – Present Scottrade Center
2000 – 2006 Savvis Center
1994 – 2000 Kiel Center
1967 – 1994 St. Louis Arena
2012 – Present St. Louis Blues Hockey Club, Inc.
2005 – 2012 Dave Checketts
1999 – 2005 Bill Laurie and Nancy Walton Laurie
1986 – 1999 Michael Shanahan, Sr.
1983 – 1986 Harry Ornest
1977 – 1983 Ralston Purina
1967 – 1977 Sid Salomon, Jr., Sid Salomon III, and Robert Wolfson
2 Al MacInnis
3 Bob Gassoff
5 Bob Plager
8 Barclay Plager
11 Brian Sutter
16 Brett Hull
24 Bernie Federko
99 Wayne Gretzky
2007 – Present Louie
*Blue is this team’s history