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"I wasn't getting any playing time anyways," says Hull. "I don't even know why they drafted me; they had so much talent on offense."
"I just didn't want to go to a bad city," Hull recalls. "But when he said St. Louis, I thought, 'Hey, I like St. Louis.'"
In going from the Calgary Flames to the St. Louis Blues, one of the first things Hull remembers was the difference in the arenas. The Flames played in the Olympic Saddledome, a flashy new, modern arena built to house the 1988 Winter Olympics and sell Calgary to the world as a top-tier city brimming with oil wealth. The Blues played in what had been the Ralston Purina Checkerdome, also known as "The Barn" because it was originally built in 1929 to house a less glamorous event: the annual National Dairy Show. Sixty years later the Barn's heifers were gone, replaced by rats that would climb the ceiling beams, providing intermission entertainment for spectators in the nosebleeds.
"In the old arena, in our dressing room, we had one of those [multi-use exercise equipment] cages. That thing had a quarter-inch of dust on it — all people did with it was put their rolls of tape on the handle," Hull recalls, laughing. "And with the coaches smoking in the locker room, it was the most unhealthy environment on the planet."
But what the Barn lacked in aesthetics, it made up for in atmosphere.
"It was bedlam with the organ and the people right on top of you," he says. "We'd come out of the dressing room and walk through the crowd to the ice. And we were good and having success. It was great."
Going out after a game was a lot more fun then, too. Unlike hockey-obsessed Canadian cities such as Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, a Blues player could walk into a St. Louis tavern without being told how much the power play sucked by a know-it-all fan.
"We'd leave the old Barn and go right up the street to McDermott's and sit there for hours just drinking beer," Hull says, referring to the Dogtown bar now known as Pat's.
The good times got better when the team suddenly became one of the youngest in the league and seemed almost designed to be a work-hard, play-hard group of guys.
"When I first got here, we had Sutter, Federko, Gilmour, McKegney — we had a bunch of old guys," Hull says. "And within a blink of an eye, we had only three or four married guys in the team. And that's when Chase and Tony Twist and Tony Hrkac, those guys came in, and then it was fifteen single guys on the team and then a couple of old guys who acted like they were single."
Chase, Hull's enforcer back in those days, says that when the Blues of the early 1990s weren't imbibing in Dogtown, they could be spotted at Trainwreck, O.B. Clark's, Pop's and whatever watering hole would have them, something they did as a sort of voluntary public-relations exercise — mixing it up with the fans.
It's a far cry from the life of most of today's players, who are leery of being burned by a fan tweeting photos of them out on the town. Chase recounts the story of Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane who was twice famously photographed partying it up, once during a college kegger and another time mere hours after scoring the game-winning goal that won his team the Stanley Cup. Both images went viral.
"Kane was photographed in a limo, with his shirt off, with two girls, he'd been drinking — he's old enough to drink — and he had just won a Stanley Cup," Chase says. "But he gets shit for it?"
Kane ended up apologizing for the incident, and the Blackhawks said their star player would undergo alcohol counseling.
It's sad, really, says Chase, who recalls a few seasons ago when the Blues were in Los Angeles with a scheduled day off to enjoy the glitz and glam of Hollywood. But instead of partying on Sunset Boulevard, the players had a video-game tournament in their hotel rooms.
"How shitty would that be that you go through the game and you had to talk about that video-game tournament you had in LA instead of partying with Heather Locklear?" ponders Chase.
With Hull and crew it was never that way. People didn't have cell-phone cameras at the ready in the early '90s, and players didn't have to worry about their high jinks — like the time Garth Butcher knocked Hull on his ass in a Toronto bar — ending up on Instagram.
Hull and Butcher, who was then the Blues captain, had been arguing over the direction of the team.
"Brett was just being Brett, and I told him if he keeps it up, I'll knock him right off that bar stool," recounts Butcher.
I was listening to Hull and Chase on KMOX the other day. I could seriously listen to the Hull and Chase show for an hour a day.
Man if you ever went to a game at the Old Barn, you will never forget it. Those were great years in the organization even tho we did win the CUP.
His autograph is on the wall in the Sauget jailhouse. No joke. He's one of the all time greats. Good to see him back