By Corey Rudd of StlSportsMinute.com for KSDK Sports
(KSDK Sports) -- On Monday night, the St. Louis Blues made it official. Late last week, rumors swirled and later sources confirmed that the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of the organization would be returning to St. Louis in a front-office role. Brett Hull is once again a member of the St. Louis Blues organization.
Brett Hull is back. But why?
Hull is here to be the face of making this proud franchise profitable. Plain and simple, and if you are a fan of this franchise, for once, that is a good thing. It is not about remembering the history of the organization or honoring a legend. It is about generating revenue, which is something Stillman told Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in July that the team must do more of, otherwise the future of the franchise may be in doubt.
"That's our project for this offseason. Our group came in. We reduced the debt in half. We cut non-hockey payroll expenses. We cut our other expenses. We started increasing our revenue in various ways. But now we need to develop a much bigger increase in our revenues. That has to come with more businesses on board. We're grateful to the companies that give us great support. You can see those names around the arena. We need to get fuller participation from the business community. We need to get that participation or I don't see how the Blues can be successful long-term here....We need to do it now."
The Blues must use Hull much in the same way the Los Angeles Dodgers leveraged the likeability, charm and marketability of Magic Johnson to overhaul its franchise. Sure, Magic has a small stake of the team, but his presence as part of the executive team in L.A. helped make it possible for the Dodgers to land an $8.5 billion contract over 25-years. Its helped fill Dodger Stadium. It has helped make the Dodgers contenders to win this year's World Series.
Magic supplied the Dodgers with star power in the front office and Hull can do the same for the Blues in St. Louis, which is particularly important considering the team lacks a true, standout star on the ice.
No, the Blues are not going to land an $8.5 billion television deal anytime soon and Hull's presence will not get the Blues on ESPN every night (it might get them more exposure on NBC Sports Network though).
Hull's face is something that Stillman and company can sell. He can sell Hull to corporate sponsors and leverage his popularity and ability to promote. He can sell Hull to local companies in the form of suite sales.
But can Stillman, with Hull as his ammunition, get more fans to come see the team play at higher prices?
The Blues ranked at No. 18 in overall attendance last season, with 414,328 coming through the doors of the Scottrade Center, which is not terrible. But the average Blues ticket price in 2011-12, the last full NHL season completed, was just $41.57, which was nearly $16 per seat below the league average.
The Blues not only need more people in the stands each night, but the team needs to find a way to re-brand this franchise so that those that do come, pay a higher price of admission so the franchise can generate the revenue necessary to compete for free agents, sign high draft picks, and extend the contracts of its talented young players in order to stay competitive.
Stillman is asking Hull to be his Magic Johnson. Hull is one of Stillman's keys to financial success with the Blues.
Of course, winning will go a long way too, but Hull is not involved on the hockey side of the operation. He is on the business side, something even he knows will be a challenge.
"It's hard economic times. It's a small market," Hull added. "It's not like we're the New York Rangers who have a TV deal that helps everything. We need to dig in our heels and get to work and show the community that we're a class group. I think anybody in the community and the business community sees a team that is classy and is doing the right things not only on the ice, but off the ice in the community that they'll jump on board and be a part of it as well."
It is a great thing to see the "Golden Brett" back in the Midwest, representing the Note for the first time in 15 years. It is great to see Hull's smile and charisma once again lighting up not only a room, but an entire building, just like he lit the lamp so many times as a player. It does feel good to have Brett Hull back, even if he is in the rafters of the Scottrade Center as opposed to lurking in the slot, putting fear in the minds of the opposition.
While his role is certainly different this time around with the Blues, it is equally important. Hull looks to be, once again, the centerpiece of the Blues, this time off the ice, so they can re-sign Alex Pietrangelo, among others, to help the team win on it.
Corey Rudd is a co-host of Fan Interference on CBS Sports 920 and insideSTL.com in St. Louis. He also owns and operates StlSportsMinute.com. You can follow him on Twitter here.