The St. Louis I grew up in was always a baseball town – still is.
But there were other professional teams in football and basketball – though in neither sport was the team history as long in St. Louis or as storied as the baseball Cardinals.
The Cardinals football team moved to St. Louis from Chicago in 1960 where they played for the next 27 years until Bill Bidwell moved them to Arizona in 1987.
The Hawks moved to St. Louis from Milwaukee in 1955; winning the NBA championship in the 1957/58 season. After the championship, the team’s fortunes were mixed until they were sold and moved to Atlanta after the 1967/68 season.
Then in 1967, the National Hockey League expanded by six teams – included in the expansion were the St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis went nuts for hockey. And that included me. The speed of the puck and the elegance and power of the skaters. The famous hockey players and teams. The Canadian accents (“oot” versus “out”). And yes, even the fights. All of it showed hockey to be something different than anything we had seen.
Those were the days of the coach Scotty Bowman; the great forwards Red Berenson and Gerry Melnyk; the Plager brothers – Barclay and Bob, and Al Arbour – at defense; and Glenn Hall and Jacque Plante in goal.
In that era no one wore helmets and few goalies wore face masks (Plante was the exception).
Players were smaller – the big bad Plager brothers were both 5’-11” tall; compare that to today where defense men are in the mid six-foot range.
The Blues won the western Division in their first three seasons (1967-1969). In each of those three Stanley Cup Finals they won no games and went down in four games in to the Montreal Canadiens.
It was a profound disappointment to all of us hockey fans. But there was always the hope of next year. But that was the end of their appearance at a Stanley Cup Final…until this year.
The Blues won the Stanley Cup last night, beating the Boston Bruins in seven games!
The quest that began on that first face off with the Minnesota North Stars on October 11, 1967 had finally succeeded.
I have to confess I haven’t followed the Blues closely every season.
But living in the Seattle area, one of my cable channels is the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) from Vancouver, and Hockey Night in Canada is every Saturday during the season. If the Blues were playing, I’d watch at least part of most games.
And to those who can only watch NHL hockey on NBC, I’m sorry for you. There’s no comparison. If nothing else not having access to “Coach’s Corner” with the sartorially outrageous Don Cherry means you’re missing out.
Last night after the Blues won, the CBC covered the post-game celebration for almost one hour; NBC at least out here cut away several minutes after the game ended.
They were interviewing players, their wives, parents, and others. Even Laila Anderson was there and she got to kiss the Cup; it was quite moving to hear about the team’s influence on her and her influence on the team.
And for me, one of the touching moments was to see the great Bob Plager on the ice with the team; he got to kiss the Cup too.