The Golden Brett is back. But this time, the legendary hockey superstar may be knocking on doors to score goals, instead of using a stick and puck. Brett Hull retired his prolific, quick, sharp shot from the ice several years ago, but he’s back in St. Louis to take another run at helping the Blues reach the Promised Land and the elusive Stanley Cup.
Hull played 10 seasons here and last donned a Blues sweater in 1998. He went on to win Cups in Dallas and Detroit; then joined his dad, Bobby Hull, as the only father/son duo in the NHL Hall of Fame.
Today, Hull is in the Blues’ front office. “A title is a title,” he says with that familiar smile and a shrug. “I’m executive VP, but I’m doing everything: marketing, sponsorships, suites, general sales...” If you have anything to do with marketing or sponsorships for your business, then this is why you may find him sitting in your office sometime soon. “A smaller-market team like the Blues needs help from the businesses,” Hull explains. “The fans coming in buying tickets just isn't enough to keep a franchise afloat anymore—especially if you want to be competitive.”
As a player, Hull set team and league records for scoring and winning games. He scored 741 goals and is No. 3 on the all-time list. As a lifelong Blues fan, I was always amazed at how quickly and fluently he fired the puck and found the back of the net. And as a sports radio reporter for a couple of seasons in the early ‘90s, I also got to see him in action in the locker room, right along with the media swarm for some of his post-game classics. No matter what the game’s final score is, Hull was a filter-less quote- and sound-bite machine.
Often, his language was totally unacceptable for print or broadcast; but when Hull rolled his eyes or gave a wink, a lot of us knew what was better left off the record (not that he was ever really worried about his off-color locker-room remarks). Hull’s tongue still is almost as prolific, quick and sharp as his slap shot; and Blues management knows he is going to tell it like it is—that’s part of the reason they brought him back. In the short time I spent with him, he unloaded a few more one-timers, sniping at the league and the team management who came in after the Mike Shanahan ownership era.
“We had too many morons running the team. Before Tom, we had people from New York who didn’t give a $#!+ about the St. Louis Blues, the fans, the city or corporate St. Louis,” Hull states without blinking an eye. But he says when the new ownership group led by Tom Stillman came in, he wanted to be a part of it. “Now we have an owner who cares about the city,” Hull says. “He lives here and he’s a diehard Blues fan. Now, now you have something you can wrap your hands around and say, We’re back, the Blues are back!”
The team also is back to its winning ways, looking like a serious contender to finally raise high Lord Stanley’s Cup. For Hull personally, it’s a whole new challenge in a game that he can’t win on skates. For him this time, it’s all about revenue.
“I’m trying to bring in local businesses to help us survive,” he says. “Next year, the salary cap is going up to $71 million; in a few years, it’s probably going to be $100 million.” Hull says it’s no secret that the Blues are in a tough financial spot. “The previous owners knew they were getting out of here and sold everything for 10 years down the road for cash out front,” he says. “We’ve got some of the worst deals—from parking to concessions to rent to everything. We are completely (insert profanity here) until the deals the old owners made go away. That’s just a fact we’re going to have to live with.” Again, not a wink.
I ask if he still has enough of the old Brett Hull magic. “I don’t know, that’s a good question.” His honest answer is the only one I would have expected.
In his office at the Scottrade Center, a pair of skates sits on a couch. Hull says they’ve been there—untouched—since the day he arrived. Ice time no longer is a priority, getting reconnected with St. Louis is. “It’s like putting on an old shoe—it fits really well. I still have friends here, and being a part of the Blues again is great.”
He’s moved his wife, Darcie, and his 15-year-old daughter, Crosby, to St. Louis, and is in the process of buying a home. Yes, Hull is back in town, where he says he can Brett Hull is back in St. Louis, back where he says he can,“Chamelize, is that even a word?” with CEO’s and the blue collar fans, fans who remember him as the best ever to wear the note and a front office that hopes he still has the golden touch.
A native St. Louisan, Brown is a lifelong journalist, and previously served as a broadcaster for KMOX and KTRS radios and ABC 30. His Paul Brown Media specializes in public and media relations.