Revisiting the Blues’ Trade for Brett Hull

On March 7, 1988, the Calgary Flames agreed to send 23-year-old forward Brett Hull along with 27-year-old forward Steve Bozek to the St. Louis Blues for 29-year-old defenseman Rob Ramage and 28-year-old goaltender Rick Wamsley. The trade would go down as one of the biggest in Blues’ history. Here’s a look back at how the trade panned out for both clubs.

Days Leading to the Trade

As one of the Flames’ top scorers that season, Hull had not been in the lineup since Feb. 26, 1988, likely to ensure the health of their valued trade asset. His last appearance with the team resulted in a 5-3 victory when they beat the Vancouver Canucks, where he registered one assist and two shots on goal. The win over the Canucks brought their season record to 36-20-7. As the season moved along, the team was now considered a favorite to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and management believed this trade gave them the best opportunity to win, moving on from youth in favor of experience and veteran leadership. 

Calgary Trades Away Hull

With this trade, the Flames strengthened one of the NHL’s deepest lineups by adding Ramage and Wamsley — two assets they were searching for in a physical defenseman and a consistent, steady backup goaltender. By season’s end, the Flames had a 48-23-9 record, and claimed first place in the Smythe Division. In the postseason, they defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 in the division semi-finals, but were swept 4-0 in the division finals by an Edmonton Oilers team that included Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, and Wayne Gretzky. While it was not the 1987-88 postseason they envisioned, the team pulled together, making another push for the Cup the following season. The team ultimately claimed their prize, winning the Stanley Cup in six games against the Montreal Canadiens. 

Impact of Ramage and Wamsley

Ramage played two seasons for the Flames, scoring 23 points and recording 193 penalty minutes (PIM) in 80 regular-season games. However, during their Cup-winning postseason, he made his biggest offensive impact, scoring 12 points in 20 games, second behind only Al MacInnis. Despite a strong playoff, Ramage finished the regular season ranked sixth in points among Flames defensemen, scoring three goals and 16 points over 68 regular-season games. He was then traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second-round pick in the 1989 NHL Draft. 

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Wamsley split the workload in net throughout the regular season. He appeared in 111 games over parts of five seasons for the Flames, posting a 53-3-15 record, a .878 save percentage (SV%), and a 3.21 goals-against average (GAA). However, during the team’s Stanley Cup run, he played only one period, allowing two goals on 10 shots. Wamsley was also eventually traded as part of a 10-player swap that sent him to the Maple Leafs on Jan. 2, 1992.

Hull’s Legacy in St. Louis

Hull had an immediate impact in St. Louis. Following the trade, he appeared in 13 regular-season games, scoring six goals and 14 points. He continued his offensive presence with an additional nine points (seven goals, two assists) in 10 postseason games as the team defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in five games during the division semi-finals, before losing to the Detroit Red Wings in five games in the division finals.

Brett Hull
MONTREAL 1990’s: Brett Hull #16 of the St. Louis Blues skates against the Montreal Canadiens in the 1990s at the Montreal Forum in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

He went on to score 41 goals and 84 points during his first full season with the Blues. That offseason, he continued to train and improve on his skating and defensive abilities to become a better all-around player. As the players were brought back from their offseason in preparation for the 1989-90 season, the team introduced their new center to the roster, Adam Oates, to the top line, forming the legendary duo of Hull and Oates.

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With Oates, Hull experienced one of the most successful three-year stretches in NHL history. From 1989–90 to 1991–92, he scored 228 goals and 353 points in 231 games and led the NHL in goals in three straight seasons. In that time, Oates assisted on 94 (41 percent) of Hull’s goals.

“The year he scored 86, it was just magical. It was one of those years, wherever we went Brett would score two goals or a hat trick. It was just fantastic. I can’t believe we only played together 2½ years because it felt like 10. It was just so special. We just really hit it off as buddies, friends. We played the game the same way; the chemistry was just excellent.”

Adam Oates on his time with Brett Hull (from ‘Oates finally joins Hull in Hall of Fame,’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jun 27, 2012).

Hull played 11 seasons in St. Louis amassing 936 points (527 goals, 409 assists) in 744 regular-season games. Over his 19-year career in the NHL, he played for the Flames, Blues, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, and Phoenix Coyotes. He won two Stanley Cups (1999, 2002), was named to eight All-Star games, and claimed the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 1989-90, and the Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award both in the 1990-91 season. On Oct. 15, 2005, he announced his retirement from professional hockey. Four years later, in 2009, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame

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While there is no telling the impact that Hull would have made with the Flames throughout his career, an argument can be made that the impact of rostering a player of Hull’s abilities in lieu of Wamsley and Ramage could have built a championship-winning dynasty in Calgary. The postseason impact of Wamsley was next to none for the team, while Ramage at least provided a stellar performance and impact during the 1988-89 postseason. However, the team could have found a deal either for he or another defenseman without giving up a player that had 51 points in 57 NHL games to that point.

On the flip side, while the Blues did not win a Stanley Cup with Hull rostered, he consistently maintained a presence and status that made St. Louis a desirable place to play. His legacy left with the franchise is still one referenced today and a legacy the continues to be poured out to Blues fans each season.

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