(This month, Puck Daddy asked bloggers for every NHL team to tell us The Essentials for their franchises — everything from the defining player and trade, to the indispensable fan traditions. Here is Brad Lee and St. Louis Game Time, giving us The Essentials for the St. Louis Blues.)
By Brad Lee and St. Louis Game Time
Brett Hull. He's the best goal scorer the team has ever seen, the biggest personality to ever wear the uniform and is most responsible for the team having a solid foundation in St. Louis. When they built the now-called Scottrade Center, they called it the Building Hull Built. The same decade he arrived, the team had almost moved to Saskatchewan. When he left town, the team had a shiny new building, new skating rinks had popped up across the region and the Blues had deep roots in the community. Of course, Hull would win two Stanley Cups, not with the Blues, after he was allowed to leave as a free agent.
1999-2000. The only season the Blues have won the President's Trophy is a microcosm of the history of the franchise. They finished with team records in wins with 51 and points with 114. They played a strong puck possession game that dominated weaker opponents. They were so confident heading into the playoffs that several players dyed their hair blond, including forward Jamal Mayers, who has a shaved head, put blond tiger stripes in his eyebrows. In the first round of the playoffs, the Sharks didn't back down. Goaltender Roman Turek allowed a goal from near the red line. San Jose eliminated the Blues in seven games. Something good happened. And then disaster.
The Monday Night Miracle. In the Conference Finals in 1986, the Blues were down 3-2 in the series to the Flames. Game Six was in St. Louis at the old barn on Oakland Avenue. With 12 minutes to play, the Blues trailed 5-2. Well they don't call it a miracle for nothing. They tied the game in the waning seconds of regulation and then won the game in overtime. It was thrilling. And immediately followed by a 2-1 loss in Calgary that eliminated the Blues. For a team that's never won a Cup, it's fitting that the most memorable game in team history — literally the only one with a nickname — was immediately followed by a disastrous game.
Red Berenson's sixth goal. The date was Nov. 7, 1968. The place was the Philadelphia Spectrum. The feat was Red Berenson scoring six goals in one game, the modern NHL record for most in one game. In 1920 someone with the Quebec Bulldogs scored seven on Toronto, but let's be fair. It was Toronto. Anyway, no other modern player has scored more than six and Berenson was the only player to score six in one road game. I'd write about a Stanley Cup winning goal or something. But that would be a really short paragraph with exactly zero words.
The Butcher trade. The late Ron Caron was a tremendous general manager. He traded for Brett Hull and Adam Oates. When Oates kept asking to re-open contract negotiations, he got Craig Janney. He signed Scott Stevens. He signed Brendan Shanahan. The guy made stuff happen. He was famous for saying there was always meat on the burner in his thick and gravelly French-Canadian accent. At the trade deadline in the 1990-91 season, with his team in first place overall, Caron shook things up. He coveted Garth Butcher in Vancouver. He acquired the grizzled veteran defenseman along with Dan Quinn, now a mainstay in celebrity golf events. Caron had to give up Geoff Cournall, Robert Dirk, Segrio Momesso and Cliff Ronning. It should be noted, those guys helped the Canucks make the Stanley Cup Finals three years later. And the Blues, well they finished behind Chicago for most points in the league and were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. They weren't the same after the trade.
Bobby Plager. If you are a Blues fan, you know who Bob Plager is. He was one of the original players on the team when it formed in 1967. He played a physical brand of defense, known for his dramatic hip checks. He liked to fight. He went into the stands in Philadelphia to fight the fans. He's held about every job in the organization other than owner and stick boy. He currently does some radio work for the team and participates in many charity events. He truly bleeds blue and always will. And if you get him alone at a bar, he'll tell you some incredible stories even if you he doesn't know you from Adam. Trust me.
Judge Edward J. Houston. We've chanted "Ricci's ugly," we've booed Chris Chelios in Chicago AND Detroit, Nick Kypreos ended the real chance at a Cup with Wayne Gretzky when he took out Grant Fuhr's knee. But Judge Houston will never be forgiven for giving the Devils Scott Stevens. The Blues were the only team pursuing restricted free agency in the early 1990s. They had signed Stevens in 1990 and then Brendan Shanahan in 1991. Because the Blues had given up five (yes, five) first round picks. They offered as compensation Curtis Joseph and Rod Brind'Amour.
The Devils asked for Stevens. The Devils got Stevens. The league was punishing the Blues for using the system and giving out big contracts. He may have just been the messenger, but he's the face of a capricious league decision.
Kelly Chase vs. Tony Twist. It was the spring of 1996. Kelly Chase had ended up in Hartford. Tony Twist was in St. Louis. It was the Whalers' only game in St. Louis, the first for Brendan Shanahan after his trade for Chris Pronger. It was one of Wayne Gretzky's first home games. There was some rough stuff and the former Blues teammates dropped the gloves. Such is the life of the NHL enforcer — forced to fight your friends. The pair had been close when they were teammates. They were the face of a St. Louis charity that supports kids with disabilities. Twist was living in Chase's St. Louis home at the time. There was no confirmation rent went up after the fracas.
Scotty Bowman. Some would argue there's a curse related to this coaching legend. He became an NHL assistant for the Blues during their first season in 1967-68 at age 34. After a bad start, head coach Lynn Patrick resigned and Bowman took the helm. The future Hall of Famer took the expansion Blues to three straight Stanley Cup Finals. He left after those three seasons after a disagreement with the team ownership. The Blues have failed to make a Finals since.
Related? Oh, and that Bowman guy did okay. He won a record nine championships elsewhere.
Dan Kelly. The first radio broadcaster for the Blues during their inaugural season was Jack Buck, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was replaced by arguably the most popular hockey broadcaster of his time, Dan Kelly, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He took a region under his wing by using the broadcasting power of KMOX and its 50,000 watts to teach thousands of people about hockey. The guy invented "He shoots, he scores," for crying out loud. The press box is named after him. A banner with a shamrock and his name hangs in the rafters alongside the team's retired numbers.
The Power Play Dance. File this under trend. The Blues play the same music for every home team power play. It's sponsored by the local power company. It's high-paced. It's got a good rhythm and you can dance to it.
But if you're confined in your seat, how do you dance? If you do the Power Play Dance, you make 90-degree angles with your arms, cup your fingers pointing them straight up and go back and forth, kind of like a lawn sprinkler. It was started by one guy. One guy did the dance by himself every power play. People around him started doing it (some would argue those copycats were mocking him and others joined in to support him) and then other sections start doing it.
Now there is a video of the big blue furry mascot doing the dance to help lead the uninitiated. Thousands of people do it every single power play. No, we don't get either.
Toasted Ravioli. It's a St. Louis thing. Deep fried beef ravioli. What's not to like. I guess I could have recommended this little microbrew they make south of downtown called Budweiser. I thought it might be too deep of a reference.
Wayne Gretzky jerseys. I don't care who the Blues are playing, what year it is, how good the team is or how ugly the jerseys at the time were, but you will see multiple Blues jerseys with No. 99 on the back. With the slanted numbers and the horrible red trim, they're easy to spot. Even if the Kings are eliminating the Blues from the playoffs down on the ice. I get it, he's the best ever not named Bobby Orr.
He changed the game. And he played in St. Louis for 19 regular season games.
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