Jim Woodcock resigned Friday from his post as VP-Director of Marketing and Communications of the St. Louis Blues.
This is not a big story for the general sports public. But, I can't possibly overstate Woody's impact on the Blues, and their way of doing business, over the last 8 years. He has been the force behind most of the team's successful dealings with the outside world and its fan base. I can't imagine someone else coming in and doing the job half as well, at least not right away.
Woody would spend many of what should have been personal hours making sure all the bases were covered, all the possibilities were considered, and every opporunity to say, and do, the right thing was exercised. Not only that, but he constantly made it clear to those of us who worked under him that we were important to him, his superiors, and especially the fans. If you worked for Jim, you might not always agree with him, but you could never begin to question his ability as a communicator and passion for the Blues.
Many members of the media will also tell you that Woody showed a keen understanding of how a positive relationship with the press can translate into fans in the stands. Before his arrival... and I was there, so I remember... many media members seemingly couldn't wait to find something negative to say about the team. In large part, that was because Jim's predecessor did not have an appreciation for developing a working relationship with writers and broadcasters. The press lounge featured bad food and little atmosphere. The press box was a place to sit and work, nothing more. Woody changed that by making the press lounge a fun place with, what many will tell you is, gourment cuisine. He made sure the press box was visited frequently by members of management who would show their concern for the media and how they were being treated. Jim was often seen informally sitting and talking with beat writers and broadcasters in an effort to make someone from the team available and accessible. In short, the media became friendly to the team...because Jim's policies became friendly to them. I'm sure the less hostile attitude toward the Blues in the media could be directly related to increased ticket sales. I don't have proof. But, I'll bet it's true.
Jim is one of those leaders that commits himself 100% to not just getting the job done...but getting it done right. His ideas and opinions were formed in the context of a deep, working-class love for the team. Woody, like many of us, is a fan first. As a kid, he would happily take up a standing-room-only position in the last row of the upper-circle of the old Arena to catch a glimpse of "his team". His policies and internal guidelines were always reflective of that deep understanding of what a real Blues fan is all about. It is difficult to take that understanding, balance it with the internal budgetary and political problems of running a business, and still manage an effective external communications policy. But Woody displayed the talent to do it in award-winning fashion.
Jim's moving on, more than anything else so far, has me worried about the future of professional hockey in St. Louis, and North America. Exactly what could make Woody choose this time to leave? Does he see the labor situation as hopeless? Does ownership see it as being untenable, to the point that they told him to look elsewhere for employment? He says he doesn't know what he's going to do next. That tells me that he either quit because he was fed up, or was asked to resign in a budget-cutting maneuver. Either way, I view it as a sign that hockey, as we knew it, may be gone forever. Jim Woodcock is a "True Blue". How many of them can management find to do the job when they finally try to bring hockey back to life in St. Louis? That job wouldn't have been easy for Woody, It could be next to impossible for anyone else.
Wherever Woody lands, that concern will be much the better for it. Good luck Jim.