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  1. #1

    1983: The year the Blues did not show up for the draft

    Thought you guys that didn't know about this would find it interesting. It seems unfathomable in today's rookie-obsessed game, and it was then too. In '83 the Blues did not send any representatives to the draft due to ownership turmoil. In fact, they had laid off nearly all of their employees except for a few. Despite this absurdity, they continued to make the playoffs every single year until 2005-06.

    "For the first and only time in NHL history, an NHL franchise chose not to participate in the draft. The St. Louis Blues, who were in the middle of a dispute with the NHL over the pending sale of the team, chose not to send any representatives to Montreal. It was perhaps the most bizarre development in one of the most bizarre sagas in NHL history.

    St. Louis' ownership crisis dated back to the middle of the 1982-83 season, when Ralston Purina Co., the team's owner since 1977, said it wanted to get out of the hockey business and sell the team to a group from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The Saskatoon group, known as Coliseum Holdings, Ltd., was run by former Edmonton Oilers WHA owner Bill Hunter. Coliseum Holdings was prepared to buy the Blues for $11.5 million -- a price that more than satisfied Ralston Purina.

    The other NHL owners, however, were uncomfortable with the notion of a team leaving the United States for a much smaller Canadian market. In addition, St. Louis mayor Vincent C. Schoemel Jr. vowed that he would never let the Blues leave his city, and mounted a vigorous campaign to find local ownership. Knowing that the NHL would support any other bid to keep the team in St. Louis, Schoemel said he was working with a group of investors who would make the minimum $3 million offer to Ralston Purina that NHL governors needed to block the Saskatoon sale. Schoemel later increased the offer to $8 million, and Ralston recognized it was going to have a tough time getting its way.

    Despite growing opposition, Ralston Purina sold the Blues to Hunter's group after the 1982-83 season ended in April 1983. The sale was subject to NHL approval, and the league was determined to block it, if Schoemel delivered on his promises. Most of the Blues players openly opposed the move. President and general manager Emile Francis was so unwilling to relocate that he asked Ralston Purina to release him from his contract, due to expire on June 30, 1983. On April 27, Schoemel announced his group could not come up with the money, but he would not concede defeat until the NHL vote. Ralston Purina and Bill Hunter both mocked the mayor, saying he would never make it on time. On May 3, 1983, confirming its determination to carry through on the Saskatoon deal, Ralston Purina let Francis out of his contract to become president and general manager of the Hartford Whalers.

    Ten days after Francis left, on May 13, 1983, Ralston Purina shut down the Blues offices, dismissing everyone in the organization except a small handful of remaining senior management and scouts. But on May 18, the NHL hit back -- rejecting the Blues sale to Hunter's group by a 15-3 vote. On May 24, Ralston Purina filed a $20 million lawsuit against the NHL, all owners who voted against or abstained, and president John Ziegler, claiming they had denied the company its right to sell the team. The NHL retaliated with a $78 million countersuit for dissolving a franchise without permission. Despite the animosity, the remaining members of the Blues staff said they would attend the draft on June 8, and would proceed as if they would play in 1983-84.

    On May 31, 1983, the Saskatoon group cut its commitment to the sale, leaving Ralston Purina with no buyer. On June 7, 1983, angry Ralston Purina executives said the Blues would boycott the NHL draft, and the team would be tendered to the NHL, which could try to find a buyer while Ralston pursued its suit. The NHL could not decide what it wanted to do with the Blues before the draft, and as a result, nobody spoke for the team on draft day. On June 13, 1983, learning Ralston Purina would liquidate the team's assets if the NHL did not agree to its settlement, the NHL finally took over the Blues. By August, the league was able to sell the team to California businessman Harry Ornest for the bargain-basement price of $3 million, and the franchise was safe in St. Louis."
    Wanted: Blues #'d, AU, GU. Especially Federko, CuJo, Hull, MacInnis, Demitra, Tarasenko
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  3. #2
    Seems pretty baffling. You'd at least think they'd at least send an intern to make obvious picks. Any picks would likely add value to the organization. Forfeiting all of your picks is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  4. #3
    I wonder who they could have picked. I couldn't seem to figure out any sort of history on what place they would have picked... so the first round is a bit of a wash. The second round (and subsequent rounds) were all available for whatever St. Louis' pick was in the first round (ie, if they picked last, Hasek would still have been available).

    Lots of HHOFers in the list. A heavy draft year for enforcers...

    Here is a summary of the gems missed by St. Louis:

    1-3 Pat LaFontaine HHOF 2003
    1-4 Steve Yzerman HHOF 2009
    1-5 Tom Barasson
    2-26 Claude Lemieux
    3-46 Bob Probert
    4-80 Esa Tikkanen
    5-88 Joey Kocur
    6-108 Kevin Stevens
    6-121 Rick Tocchet
    7-138 Vladislav Tretiak HHOF 1989
    8-145 Viacheslav Fetisov HHOF 2001
    10-186 Stu Grimson
    10-199 Dominik Hasek HHOF 2014
    12-231 Sergei Makarov 2016

  5. #4
    That is pretty insane. Thanks for sharing.

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