[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
By: Kate Cimini of SI Online, Vice Sports, Excelle Sports and Today’s Slapshot
1. Do you smell what the Blues are cooking?
This may not fall under your radar as “weirdest” but I take particular delight whenever a fanbase responds so hard to a gaffe by their beloved team that it turns into a rallying cry for all involved.
In November the Blues were taking on their nearest (and dearest) rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, trailing by three goals in the second period. In a matter of minutes, Alexander Steen, David Backes and Jay Bouwmeester had tied it up with Chicago, knotting the score at 5-5 heading into the third.
Elise Butler, part of the St. Louis social media team, celebrated the only way she knew how: by bringing bacon into the equation.
In an autocorrect worthy of a bemused smile, Butler accidentally posted “Well that was something. #OurBlues roar bacon with three second-period goals to tie the game 5-5. #STLvsCHI” to St. Louis’s Instagram.
Within minutes the hashtag #RoarBacon had gone viral, slightly confusing nature be damned.
“I don’t know if I forgot the ‘k’ in ‘back’ so it went to ‘bacon’ or if I just write about bacon too much that it just went there,” Butler told media.
The team picked up a win after the typo, making Blues fans all the more reluctant to relinquish it. Fans cheered St. Louis on for weeks with tweets and posts tagged with #RoarBacon. The team even picked up on it which, of course, leads to our second-weirdest moment….
2. The introduction of Piggy Smalls.
When David Backes and the Blues got wind of the #RoarBacon tag, the illustrious then-Blues captain decided the most appropriate response was to bring an actual pig to work with him. Yes, if this somehow escaped your attention, you read that correctly. David Backes, famed animal lover, borrowed, stole or rented a pig in order to bring it to the Scottrade Center, where it proceeded to appear in a bunch of photographs, meet some reporters, and later, poop in Ken Hitchcock’s office.
“I’ve met Mr. Piggy Smalls before, and I figured with #RoarBacon, it was time to bring him out and have a mascot for this phenomenon of auto-correct,” Backes told St. Louis Post-Dispatch Blues beat reporter Jeremy Rutherford.
While Backes and the Blues were conducting interviews Friday, Piggy Smalls was squealing in the background.
“This team has a lot of pigs running through the locker room to be honest,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk quipped. “It’s pretty funny how an auto-correct fail could go this far. I think it’s funny. It’s kind of like the ‘Rally Squirrel’ that the Cardinals had a few years ago. We’re trying to embrace the #roarbacon.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was trying to embrace the idea Friday until Piggy Smalls decided to relieve himself in the coach’s office.
“It did it’s thing in our office,” Hitchcock said. “It was a message from the players. It left a great message in all corners of the coaches’ office. It was very clear and had a great aroma.
Yeah. That happened. Ryan Reaves told a pig that it looked delicious. I’m surprised Piggy Smalls didn’t poop then and there out of sheer terror.
3. The Blues have a new X factor
There is no way we can mention weird moments and not mention Tony X’s rise to fame, which was delightful, unprecedented, and fizzled unexpectedly when he missed his flight to the NHL Awards Show in June (though hopefully he’ll be back in the fall with the start of the next season).
Tony X, or @soloucity on Twitter, was channel-surfing for a Cardinals game when he happened upon a Blues-Blackhawks Game 7 matchup and began livetweeting the game. His combination of wonder and cussing tickled basically everyone’s funny bone and Tony X became an overnight sensation.
Tony X. gained more than 90,000 followers on Twitter, earned an invitation to a Blues game courtesy of St. Louis alum, Brett Hull, was gifted a Tarasenko jersey by Vladimir Tarasenko himself and was invited on several morning shows –– not the least of which was Good Morning America –– to talk about how he went viral.
Yo deadass this the first time I’ve ever watched hockey and this shit has been LIT for these first 45 seconds
— Tony X. (@soIoucity) April 26, 2016
Wtf is a power play
— Tony X. (@soIoucity) April 26, 2016
I don’t know who this dude kane is but we gotta stop him.
— Tony X. (@soIoucity) April 26, 2016
4. Steamed, with a side of towel
Possibly my favorite weird Blues moment happened decades ago, before I was even alive –– the time a Blues coach almost went up in flames. Luckily for all of us who came after 1980, it was memorialized in St. Louis Arena: Memories, written by Patty Smith Jackson and Jeff Gordon.
At this point, St. Louis still played out of the St. Louis Arena (also known as the ‘Checkerdome’), which had just been bought by Ralston Purina and undergone a significant number of upgrades in order to attract new business. They were successful, and ended up drawing acts like Van Halen, the Rolling Stones, The Who and more. But it wasn’t all (Guns and) roses for the building’s management.
Aug. 2, 1980, saw a five-alarm fire gut one of the buildings attached to the Checkerdome. Public relations director Susie Mathieu was called to come down to the site; upon arrival she noted that the exhibition hall was destroyed but the Arena itself –– where the Blues offices and dressing rooms were –– was in good shape. The firefighters had cut off power to the entire complex in case the fire was electrical in nature and the main building, as well as its annexes, were entirely dark.
Inside the Arena, relaxing in the sauna, was Blues coach Barclay Plager, completely oblivious to everything that was going on.
“He was in there the whole time and no one knew it until he wandered out of the darkened building in a bath towel. He had no idea what was going on out there,” Mathieu said.
‘Thank goodness he had the towel on,’ is how I’m sure that quote finished.
5. Honorable mentions
I’m going rogue. There were too many odd little moments for me to choose from, so your No.5 is actually made up of my favorite honorable mentions.
5A. Did you know the Arena had a stained-glass window of the Blues playing the Detroit Red Wings titled, ‘Mayhem on Ice?’ I sincerely hope it’s hanging out in a church in St. Louis somewhere, making people think of “false gods” and all that jazz.
5B. Brendan Shanahan appeared in Forrest Gump while playing for St. Louis. And he wasn’t bad, which, to me, is the weirdest part. There’s a long, time-honored tradition of professional athletes appearing in movies and sucking; Shanahan, evidently, decided to buck tradition and show some talent, long before LeBron made it cool. Always a trend-setter, that Shanahan. He later went on to have a small roll in Me, Myself and Irene (but that wasn’t while on the St. Louis roster) but the majority of his IMDB creds come from playing himself in documentaries or those always-hilarious player review videos from the Department of Player Safety.
Oops, wait. That one wasn’t Shanahan.
5C. This isn’t a weird moment but more like a weird, terrible choice St. Louis kept making for nearly three seasons. In 1994 St. Louis hired Mike Keenan to coach and manage the Blues coming off a Rangers Stanley Cup win. The owners basically gave him free reign. By all accounts Keenan proceeded to bully the crap out of his team, which worked really well for some players and terribly for others. While Keenan did some amazing, risky things (like trading for Wayne Gretzky) he also managed to flush most of the good he did down the toilet, (like running Wayne Gretzky out of town with his “contentious style” 13 games and 16 points after he arrived).
There’s so much more to say about Keenan but most of it has already been said here. (I still miss you, Grantland.)
5D. We have to end on the Monday Night Miracle goal, when the Blues returned from a three-goal deficit to win in overtime against the Flames during the 1986 Campbell Conference Finals.
Weird? Depends on your definition.
But if there’s any chance I can squeeze this in, I’m going to try.
Previous Weird NHL Posts: Anaheim | Arizona | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida | Los Angeles | Minnesota | Montreal | Nashville | New Jersey | New York Islanders | New York Rangers | Ottawa | Philadelphia | Pittsburgh | San Jose
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About the author: Kate Cimini is a freelance writer covering the NWHL, NHL and more. Despite having never visited St. Louis she is an avid Blues fan and used to manage and edit FanSided’s Bleedin’ Blue, which was blatantly biased in favor of all things Blues. Her work currently appears at Sports Illustrated Online, Vice Sports, Excelle Sports and Today’s Slapshot. Follow her on Twitter at @kcimini.