Saturday, July 01, 2006

Away We Go!

I attended the press conference at the Missouri Athletic Club Friday at which Dave Checketts formally announced his purchase of the Blues. I should say Mr. Checkets, his associates, and investment companies...purchased the team. A lot of high finance here.

I know first impressions can sometimes be deceiving, but after having spoken with Checketts, Ken Munoz and Mike McCarthy, I could not be more impressed. All of these men appear to be not only smart, but very down-to-earth and caring individuals. It is easy to see why John Davidson was so impressed with their leadership that he would quit his very lucrative and sexy broadcasting career to become president of the team. These people appear to be...and from all accounts I've heard, read, and seen... are genuinely first-class sports business operators.

I spoke with Munoz for at least ten minutes after the press conference...he was genuinely engaging and interested in my history with the team. He also told stories of his hanging out at hockey games as a kid. He's really excited to be a part of an NHL ownership group. McCarthy and Checketts did their best to be personable and did a great job, considering they hadn't slept for a few days trying to get the deal done. Davidson also came across to me to be a man who enjoys other people, and will take the time to get to know someone even if it's of no particular benefit to him. I look forward to helping all of them in any way I can.

One thing that is interesting right off the bat is the controversial decision to maintain a relationship with Larry Pleau as general manager. From my viewpoint Pleau appeared to have a strong gameplan of developing the team from the minor leagues on up during his tenure with the Laurie regime until the owner and his management lackeys interfered. Some of the people that Bill Laurie trusted to make business decisions on his behalf took Pleau and his hockey operations people for a long and miserable ride. The Paige Sports (Laurie's parent company) people wanted to win, and win now, and the resulting moves to acquire Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight and a few other high-priced veterans took the team to the brink of success...but also stripped it of the talent in the minors that it needed to fill the roster with quality further down the road.

Now that the team is basically starting over with young people with an eye to winning in a few...or several...years, Pleau and his chief talent evaluator Jarmo Keikalainen can hopefully build a team with talented youngsters that St. Louis hockey fans will be able to enjoy for years to come. First overall draft pick Erik Johnson...and some of the other draftees...appear to be a good start down that road. The bottom line for me...Pleau's major failing in St. Louis has been the inability to hire a top-notch goaltender. John Davidson is a former NHL goalie... and should be able to help Pleau and Jarmo fix that. There are already several good...if not potentially great...goalies in the organization. Curtis Sanford, Jason Bacashihua, Chris Beckford-Tseu, Marek Schwarz, Ben Bishop et al.

We all can only hope that the new owners and their understanding of business, sports and the world will bring us back to championship caliber hockey in St. Louis sooner than later. There is no doubt an enormous task ahead. It seems like a pipe dream to many St. Louis hockey fans because of our long-standing frustration, but I truly believe the Stanley Cup is now within sight. The Checketts group appears to me to be up to it.

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