-Mark it down in your official Blues diary...Keep tomorrow's newspaper for future display...Don't ever think about erasing the video from your DVR. Today...Friday March 24th, 2006...is the day that things stopped going downhill for the Blues organization. And, if the new Dave Checketts ownership group is as good as many in the sports business seem to think it is, it might be the beginning of a story that includes a Stanley Cup parade in St. Louis.
Whatever the future success of Mr. Checketts and his partners, it's got to be a red letter day for Blues fans. At least there will be (after a two month league approval process) an ownership in place that can make decisions about spending money, provide a commitment to winning, and provide assurance that the team will stay in St. Louis. Of course, that's what's crippled the franchise ever since Bill and Nancy Laurie decided to put the team and Savvis Center up for sale last June. The Lauries spent a lot of money and made no small commitment to their ownership tenure, but just didn't have what it takes to win for whatever reason. The ownership change alone allows us to all breathe a lot easier.
I watched, with keen interest, today's news conference announcing the sale. Of course, I have a small stake in the situation being a game-night employee of the team. But, more than that, as a Blues fan I wanted to get a sense of the man who is heading the new ownership group. I had heard many good things about him from a lot of different sources, but I wanted to form my own opinion based on how he presented himself, and answered the important questions before him. I must say, I was not disappointed in any way.
Dave Checketts is obviously an intelligent, well-spoken, passionate-about-sports, and handsome individual. I couldn't help but recall the initial news conference at which Mike Shanahan was introduced as the lead owner of the Blues back in the 80's. The two men struck me in much the same way. It seems that if these guys weren't successful at running a hockey franchise, they would be successful at something. You get that feeling about certain people. If Mr. Checketts has the same people skills as Shanahan, we are in for a great era in Blues hockey. Mike Shanahan was not only a superb sports executive, but he took joy in his relationships with all of the people associated with the team. ALL of them. From the guy selling beer...to the General Manager...Shanahan was comfortable with them...and them with him.
As an example, I remember one time at the old Arena telling Mike Shanahan that my wife, mother, and sister and some of our family were going to be watching the game from one of the party boxes. I believe it was my mom's birthday. I've never been a big fish in the Blues scheme of things, but before that game was over, Mike had stopped by the party box to see my family, wish my mother a happy birthday, bought everybody a round of drinks, and spent a lot of time visiting and telling stories. Not only was my family impressed, I was trememdously grateful. And, obviously, Mike made an impact as simply a great person to the point where here, some 20 years later, I remember it enough to tell the story. I'd like to think that Dave Checketts will bring that sort of "all for one, and one for all" mentality back to the Blues organization and work force.
Whatever he does bring, it can only be better than the purgatory we've been in for the last two years. Blues fans are deserving of an ownership that puts the same passion into the team as they do. There may be a smaller core of hockey fans than Cardinals or Rams fans, but that core makes up for it with undying loyalty and love of the Blue Note. For that reason, it was an important moment of today's press conference when Checketts noted the outstanding Blues alumni group that exists in St. Louis. He obviously understands how important they can be in winning the public relations battle that's ahead. With the likes of Al MacInnis, Blake Dunlop, Bruce Affleck, Kelly Chase, Perry Turnbull and many others out in the community telling the Blues story, it will be a lot easier to get the casual Blues fan back on board and into the building.
Friday March 24th, 2006. Let's hope it's the beginning of what Blues fans have been dreaming about.