ST. LOUIS -- As a St. Louis Blue, he made a living in the slot with precise wrist shots and one-timers that made life difficult for opposing goaltenders.
Now 15 years after unwillingly departing as an unrestricted free agent, Brett Hull returns to the place where his playing career took off in hopes of helping the franchise from the business side.
Blues Chairman Tom Stillman made the announcement Monday night that the 49-year-old Hull, who is the franchise's leading scorer with 527 goals, has been named Executive Vice President.
"We are pleased to announce that Brett Hull is coming home to the St. Louis Blues," Stillman said in front of an audience at the Scottrade Center atrium of roughly 500 fans. "Brett Hull belongs with the Blues. It makes all the sense in the world for him to be here. We've thought that from Day One, but we wanted it to work in the right way where it's good for Brett and good for the organization. We think it's a great thing for all concerned."
Hull, who had been working in the Dallas Stars' front office since 2007, was originally acquired by the Blues on March 7, 1988 from the Calgary Flames for goalie Rick Wamsley and forward Steve Bozek. A city that was down on its hockey team suddenly fell in love with No. 16 and the franchise. He spent 11 seasons with the Blues, setting a plethora of club records and placing his name into the NHL record books.
"I never wanted to leave fifteen years ago," Hull said. "... and I'm glad I'm back, I'll tell you that.
"... My wife Darcy and I, it was a little over a year (ago) when we started talking about that this might be a possibility (of coming back to St. Louis), I don't think it took more than a couple sentences to convince her that this was a wonderful place and a place that we can call, I guess, our new home."
Last week, the Blues changed titles of General Manager Doug Armstrong, adding President of Hockey Operations to his duties and naming Bruce Affleck to President of Business Operations, opening up a spot for Hull to join the organization. Affleck previously held the title of Chief Operating Officer.
Hull will be working hand-in-hand with Affleck, who is also a member of the Blues alumni group and a close friend of Hull's.
"I'm proud to finally have you where you belong in St. Louis," Affleck said, speaking directly to Hull.
Hull will be responsible in the aiding of ticket sales, suite sales, adding sponsors and season tickets to an already-growing area.
"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."
Hull was part of two Stanley Cup winners in Dallas (1999) and Detroit (2002).
"It's going to be a big learning curve for me, but I think working with Bruce and Eric (Stisser) in the front office and obviously Tom in the front office, we can put together a great group that can push this team to a high level."
In Hull's 11 seasons with the Blues (1988-98), he recorded 527 goals, 67 playoff goals, 117 playoff points, 27 regular season hat tricks and played in 102 playoff games, which are all franchise records. He's second all-time in club history in regular season points (936), regular season assists (409) and playoff assists (50).
Stillman is banking on using Hull's past and present stature to enhance the team's product in the community.
"When Brett Hull is in town, there is a buzz," Stillman said. "People are excited. There is something special about his effect on St. Louis."
Hull's tenure in St. Louis ended when the Blues chose not to resign him following the 1998 season. He went onto sign a free agent contract with the Stars -- coached by Hitchcock -- and scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal against Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres. Hull then signed on with the Red Wings, winning a second Stanley Cup. But he said Monday that although he could never win one as a player with the Blues, winning one in an executive role would be just as good.
"Absolutely. It'll feel wonderful," Hull said. "Not even for me. I know what it's going to feel like for me, but can you imagine how wonderful it'll feel for these fans of St. Louis who have been so loyal to the organization for so long?
"It's been 15 years (since I first left). A lot of the relationships that I've had have never really left. There's been a little bit of distance between us, but it's a city that I grew to love when I played here, the fan base, the organization I've always loved. When Tom got the team last year, I was very excited because we talked about his passion and where he wanted to lead this team. That's the way I thought it should be and should have been done ever since I've been a part of it. It's nice to have an owner who has that idea."
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