ST. LOUIS -- Like all NHL teams, the St. Louis Blues are trying to create an atmosphere in their building. Unlike most NHL teams, the atmosphere is nothing short of depressing.
President John Davidson has a lot of work ahead of him to get this once-proud franchise off the ground, and nowhere was it more evident than yesterday afternoon against the Edmonton Oilers. After four announced crowds of less than 10,000 at the Scottrade Centre, there were fewer than 5,000 yesterday. A team that made the playoffs 25 years in a row - a major league record in North America - can't draw flies anymore.
"We get more people than this for training camp,'' said Marc-Andre Bergeron, who could barely believe his eyes.
Blues winger Bill Guerin understands where all the fan skepticism comes from.
"Between the lockout and what happened last year, it's tough,'' he said of a fire sale that saw previous owners unload all the best and most popular players while the team sunk like a stone. "This is a town where you have to give people a reason to come out and spend their money.
"We're going up against the Cardinals winning a World Series, a lot of people spent money on those tickets. It's understandable; if you're going to spend a lot of money, you want to see a winner.''
In the mid-to-late 1990s, the Blues averaged 18,000 a night. But after a 21-46-15 season last year they raised ticket prices. That turned a lot of people off. And with three wins in their last 11 games this year, the Blues aren't going to pack the house anytime soon.
"It's too bad because it's such a good hockey city,'' said Marty Reasoner, who spent several seasons in St. Louis before coming to Edmonton.
"When I was here there was such a great atmosphere, a full building every night. It's kind of surprising to see because it's such a great sports town, they support all their teams so well.
"At the time I was here they had McGwire hitting those home runs, the Rams were winning Super Bowls. The Blues were a top team in the league, winning the President's Trophy. It's tough to see where it's come."