BLUES EXTRAS

Hull: 'I'm glad I'm back'

2013-09-10T04:45:00Z 2013-09-11T05:58:04Z Hull: 'I'm glad I'm back'By Jeremy Rutherford jrutherford@post-dispatch.com 314-444-7135 stltoday.com

It was an inadvertent slip, but the moment perhaps answered the question: Why was Brett Hull at Scottrade Center on Monday night to formally accept a position as vice president of the Blues?

Following owner Tom Stillman to the podium, Hull said: “I’m really proud to be a part of Tom’s vision to bring back — to bring — a Stanley Cup to the city of St. Louis...”

The Blues, of course, never have won a Stanley Cup. And although they appear to have built a roster that is on the verge of contending for one, the franchise needs to become more financially viable off the ice.

Hull, who won Stanley Cups in Dallas and Detroit and said a hole remains in his heart because he didn’t win one during 11 fabulous seasons in St. Louis, has tried his hand at hockey operations. He was a co-general manager with the Stars from 2007-09 and found the work to be full of “minutiae.”

Hull, 49, saw his future on the business-relations side, and after months of speculation that he would rejoin the Blues, No. 16 returned home Monday believing that he can help lead the city to its first-ever championship in a capacity far different than perhaps many envisioned.

PHOTOS: HULL IS BACK WITH BLUES

“I never wanted to leave …after 15 years ... I’m glad I’m back, I can tell you that,” Hull said during a news conference that was open to the public and drew a crowd of several hundred fans.

But anybody who thinks that Hull is back simply to flash his familiar grin to Blues fans and the business community, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

“I don’t think it’s just a matter of shaking hands,” Stillman said. “He’ll be involved in the substance of selling and showing people and companies in the market that this is an organization that you want to be associated with.”

The Blues have made some in-roads in convincing the business community to get more involved, but there’s still a ways to go in selling suites and season tickets.

“It’s hard economic times,” Hull said. “It’s a small market. 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 … they’ll jump on board and be a part of it as well.”

Hull admitted that the financial side is not his area of expertise and that there will be a learning curve.

“It’s just kind of a new challenge,” he said. “I’ve been a player, I’ve been a GM, been an assistant to hockey operations and this is just something new. I guess my personality, I think it’s good to interact with the fans, the sponsors, with season-ticket holders and with the community in general. I’m going to put my best foot forward to do that.”

Near where Hull was addressing the media, there was a NHL regulation net with a stack of pucks in front of it — 527 to be exact. That’s the number of goals he scored with the Blues, a figure that remains a franchise record.

Hull finished his career with 741 goals, which is the third-most in NHL history, and he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

While Hull’s role with the Blues won’t be in hockey operations, general manager Doug Armstrong (whom Hull replaced as GM in Dallas) and coach Ken Hitchcock (whom he won a Cup under in 1999) may tap into his insight.

“I can’t say I’m not going to help if Doug asks me a question,” Hull said. “I’m not going to say, ‘I can’t help you.’”

Stillman hopes that Hull will offer his opinion when needed.

“You don’t score as many goals, the third-most goals in history, without having a great hockey mind,” Stillman said. “They’ll be picking his brain and talking to him and getting his views on things. Brett and Doug have a very, very good relationship and a lot of respect for each other. (But) we want him focusing on the business side right now.”

The announcement that came on Monday has been months in the making.

Stillman, who said he's often asked, "When is Brett Hull going to rejoin the organization?" indicated that both sides were seeking the proper fit before reaching an agreement.

“Brett Hull belongs with the Blues, and it makes all the sense in the world for him to be there,” Stillman said. “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.”

Hull said the timing is better now than May 2012, when Stillman purchased the Blues.

“You’ve got a guy that just bought an NHL franchise from a group that wasn’t running it the right way,” Hull said, “and so we had to give him time to get a grasp of the team and really learn what he had before I think he could really make that step.”

Is the next step a Stanley Cup? That’s why Hull came here. He was asked if it would mean as much as an executive to help the Blues win their first Cup as it would have as a player.

“Absolutely … it’ll feel wonderful,” Hull said. “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?"

Hull and his wife Darcie are "going to buy a house here and sink our teeth in. I told her, St. Louis might be one of the most underrated cities in the whole country. It may take you a week or two, but you're going to fall in love with it...She's like me and she likes to eat. I might take her to The Hill. She might make me buy a house on The Hill so we can walk from restaurant to restaurant."

Jeremy is a reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @jprutherford.

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