Inconceivable! Blues Spend Big But Still Can’t Turn a Profit

Deliberately ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. It’s still there. You only make it worse by pretending it doesn’t exist. And sooner or later, it may rear its ugly, snake-like face and make you regret not addressing it sooner.

That problem you ignored (Wikipedia)
That problem you ignored? It’s at the door. And it wants your soul (Wikipedia)

On the surface, things look swell for the St. Louis Blues. The team is competing for President’s Trophies and the roster is deeper than it’s ever been, filled with the likes of David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Steen, Alex Pietrangelo, Patrick Berglund, and Paul Stastny.

But there is an elephant in the room: having signed those players, the Blues have to actually pay them and still find a way to make a profit. For the Blues, this is easier said than done.

The Blues’ Finances Are Shockingly Bad

In 2006, the Blues were ranked as the 16th most valuable NHL franchise out of 30 teams, valued at $150 million. By 2012, the Blues had dropped to DEAD LAST in the league. And despite moving up to number 28 in 2013, the Blues are still worth less than the likes of the Arizona Coyotes, the Florida Panthers, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Nashville Predators, to name a few.

Just let that sink in for a second:

The Blues are doing worse than the NHL’s most godforsaken hockey wasteland (Phoenix), a place so toxic the NHL itself had to step in and run the team.


Even more alarming, the Blues have already been sold twice in the last 8 ½ years. In 2006, after losing the GDP of a small country (the Blues lost $91 million over the previous five years, by far the biggest loss in the NHL), billionaire Bill Laurie had had enough. In stepped Dave Checketts. And in 2006, the Blues actually made money for the first time in a long time, ending up a whopping $1 million in the black.

But it was not to last.

Since 2006, the Blues have lost between $2 and $10 million EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Checketts, not surprisingly, did not care for losing millions of dollars, and so he sold the team in 2012 to a new ownership group let by Tom Stillman, which graciously kept the team in St. Louis.

In 2012 (-$10 million) and 2013 (-$2.5 million), the Blues continued to lose money.

This Is the Perfect Time to Panic

When Stillman bought the Blues in 2012, Bernie Miklasz wrote this (emphasis mine):

Fans already are clamoring for Stillman to increase the player payroll and go on a wild spending splurge in the summer free-agent market. That’s unlikely, if not impossible. . . . If you think that Stillman is rolling in money and can engage in bidding wars for free agents with Detroit’s Mike Ilitich or the Wirtz family in Chicago, think again.

This fair and reasonable prediction turned out to be completely wrong. Under Stillman’s watch, the Blues have vastly increased player payroll, literally to almost the maximum allowed under the NHL’s salary cap, and they signed arguably the top player in free agency (Paul Stastny) to a huge, $28 million, four year contract. Next year, there are going to be A LOT of players that need to be signed or replaced, and very little money to do it.

From the outside looking in, this looks incredibly foolish. Increasing your spending when you are already hemorrhaging money is a good way to go bankrupt.

There has to be some explanation us fans are not privy to. Perhaps the current ownership figures a deep postseason run is the only thing that can save them, financially, so they might as well go for it, balls to the wall. Or maybe they just want to run the team into the ground and sell it to Seattle. I don’t know.

But it’s a gamble I would prefer the team not take. Because if the Blues go up for sale again soon — the third sale in about a decade — it will almost certainly be the end of the St. Louis Blues. If insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results, you would have to be insane to keep the team in St. Louis and expect to turn a profit.

The Thin Ray of Hope

Forbes’ most current NHL values should come out soon. I will be watching to see where the Blues are at. If the team is finally making money, then good job management! Keep it up! They clearly know something I don’t.

But if the team is still losing money, then . . . I don’t know, what can we do? Just enjoy the ride, I guess. If you’re gonna go out, might as well go out swinging, preferably at the Blackhawks and Kings.

Just another reason to really savor this season, Blues fans. Go Blues.

10 thoughts on “Inconceivable! Blues Spend Big But Still Can’t Turn a Profit”

  1. A lot of the Blues current financial situation is directly the fault of Checketts. While he had good intentions, he really didn’t have the money to make it happen. Checketts only owned less than a quarter of the team – about 75% of the money for his ownership group came from a venture capital firm that didn’t want to be involved in the day-to-day. Perfect for Checketts, and he hired some good hockey people, most notably John Davidson. But when the venture capital people wanted out, Checketts couldn’t find a buyer who wanted to put in that much money and have little to no influence in the operation. Checketts was also overambitious in his plans, and basically sold the store (giving away concessions money, financing the Peabody Opera House restoration) for cash up front. This is why the Blues struggle to break even despite a great arena and strong ticket sales. Current owner Tom Stillman is trying to rebuild the team’s finances from the mess Checketts left, but to his credit, he’s not letting that drag down the hockey team.

  2. I have no doubt that Tom Stillman will do all he can to keep the Blues in St. Louis. He’s an honorable guy and truly loves the game of hockey. Unlike the Walmart Prince across town who simply wants to take what he can get and then run to L.A. if it isn’t enough. Anyone else ready to help load up the truck so Kroenke can just get it over with? Hard to commit to a team that isn’t ever very good and continuously hints at leaving.

  3. 9 teams have cheaper average ticket prices than the Blues. And the average ticket prices have gone up by about $60 this off season…according to:
    Assuming that is correct, that added revenue coupled with the fact the Blues should sell out a lot of games this year, will make a huge difference in how much the team earns this year.

    But with that said…
    The Blues aren’t going anywhere. Not a chance, no way, no how. The city and the league won’t let them leave. Period. No sale that would move the team outside the city and away from STC would be approved. It would literally almost be impossible for them to leave…at least for the foreseeable future. The building is fantastic and one of the best money makers in the NHL, which is a big deal when teams consider moving. And the fan support is far too strong.

    Nothing more to see here.

  4. The NHL needs to stay in St. Louis. Outside of the “Original Six”, St. Louis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Buffalo are four cities the NHL needs to keep. Please keep in mind that the Blues are the only NHL team in the expansion era to beat pro basketball twice. (NBA Hawks & ABA Spirits of St. Louis). Yes the Cardinals are number 1 in town, but there is nothing wrong with being second.

  5. they still have some of the cheapest tickets in hockey.that is why the building is full every night.if they ever raised ticket prices to be comparable with places like chicago,detroit or new york the building would be empty.
    unfortunately as a saint louisan i realized long ago the nhl has no business being in saint louis.
    why do you think the team goes up for sale every few years?

  6. This seems strange. The building is close to selling out every home game. Around 17,000 which is 89% full. They have contract with Fox Sports Midwest. Is it because they don’t own the building and have to pay “rent.” This article never explained why the lose money every year.

  7. Definitely need some exposure. I know the cards rule the Stl MA but they need some more gusto outside of the Midwest to get some espn games and a “story” behind them.

    • Dude…the NHL hasn’t been on ESPN in a long, long time.
      And they have a lot of outside exposure. The Blues had a number of games broadcast nationally on the NBC Networks last year and have a bunch more this year.

Comments are closed.