National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman announced during the second period of the Winter Classic on Tuesday that the 2020 NHL All-Star Game would be hosted by the St. Louis Blues.
The decision to give the Blues this honor is another in a continuing series of moves whereby the league is awarding the franchise’s commitment to its team, its venue, and its city. Whatever your opinion on Bettman, one thing is consistent — he likes to reward franchises that commit to the league.
The All-Star game is the second such prize for the Blues since owner Tom Stillman purchased the franchise for roughly $185 million in 2012, and, if the current progression continues, it won’t be the last.
2017 Winter Classic
As we mentioned, the All-Star game was the second reward which the league gave to the Blues, the first being the 2017 Winter Classic. The event was hosted at Busch Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, and was seen then as a prize which St. Louis had earned by committing to hockey locally and finding a native buyer for the franchise.
The significance of the game itself (a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks) was relatively minor, though it was the final highlight of the Ken Hitchcock era, which ended a month later. The significance of the event itself, however, echoes to this day.
The St. Louis Winter Classic was seen as a terrific success, and the Blues were celebrated around the league for their part in hosting the event. They received praise from many national voices, including NBC analyst Mike Milbury, who said on the broadcast at the time it might have been the best Winter Classic he’d experienced.
The game was great, the weather was good, the music was awesome, and the fans and the city were amazing.
Though the game received lower ratings than other Winter Classics, it left an indelible impression on the NHL — when St. Louis hosts an event, they do it right.
Enterprise Center Renovations
The Blues further won the league’s favor when they announced over $100 million of improvements to the then Scottrade Center (recently rebranded the Enterprise Center).
From the very beginning, it was an investment the league had significant interest in. Bettman is always concerned with franchise value, and the improvements to the arena were a certain investment in the franchise itself. There were hints for several years that the All-Star Game and other marquee events could well be in the cards if St. Louis continued their renovation plans.
The renovations are now two-thirds complete, with the most significant changes having occurred this past summer. They still have the lower bowl to rehabilitate, and other minor changes, but the arena is now mostly ready for anything the league can throw at it.
2020 All-Star Weekend in St. Louis
The NHL was true to its word on Tuesday and made it official: St. Louis will host the 2020 All-Star Game festivities. It’s a significant win for a franchise whose value has continued to grow. Stillman had glowing remarks on the subject for nhl.com:
This is a great day for not only Blues fans, but for the city of St. Louis. Our city, our great fans and our corporate partners have shown tremendous loyalty to the Blues since the team’s inception in 1967, and landing a major event such as the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game is a testament to their relentless passion and support.
The announcement may come in the midst of a disappointing season for the Blues, but it has certainly lifted St. Louis fans’ spirits for a moment. They’re probably thankful for the distraction.
The 2020 Honda #NHLAllStar Game is coming to St. Louis!!!
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) January 1, 2019
The town takes pride in hosting events like this, as it often gets overlooked as a mid-sized city in the Midwest. The league and other fans can be sure that the Blues will make the 2020 All-Star Game one to remember.
More to Come?
The Blues may continue to be rewarded in the months and years to come. The league announced that the Dallas Stars would host the 2020 Winter Classic. Could the Blues, a division rival of the Stars, potentially be the opponent?
And is it possible that other league events could be making their way to the Gateway city before long? Certainly, if St. Louis can handle an All-Star Game, they can handle a draft. Could that be in the Blues’ future as well?
Whatever the future holds, one thing is certain — the Blues are a franchise that the NHL is high on, and that’s a great place for any team to be. The partnership has benefited both sides in the past, and here’s hoping that it will continue to do so.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.