The St. Louis Blues are off to a fast start in the 2017-2018 NHL season. The team leads the Central Division after beginning its 51st campaign earlier this month.
On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, editor Bill Raack discussed the history of the St. Louis Blues hockey team with former St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist and feature writer Dan O’Neill.
O’Neill is author of the new book, "When the Blues Go Marching In: An Illustrated Timeline of St. Louis Blues Hockey."
“It’s probably about 75 vignettes that I felt were the biggest moments over the last 50 years for the Blues,” O’Neill said.
“I don’t pretend to cover everything over 50 years but I think [the book] does a pretty representative job of illustrating the top players, top moments, top trades, top goals and just the most significant things that have happened over 50 years of hockey in St. Louis,” he added.
Some of the vignettes include the founding of the club as an expansion team in 1967. In fact, St. Louis has the rival Chicago Blackhawks to thank for there even being professional hockey in St. Louis.
The Blackhawks owned the Arena – also known as the Checkerdome – and the Chicago team’s influence led to St. Louis getting one of six expansion slots, despite being late to the expansion process.
Some of the other vignettes include Red Berenson’s six goals in a game at Philadelphia on November 7, 1968. The double-hat trick feat remains the only one in NHL history by a visiting player.
Also acknowledged are players such as Wayne Gretzky, Garry Unger, Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Al MacInnis, Keith Tkachuk and Bernie Federko, as well as more current players such as T.J. Oshie, Alexander Steen and Vladamir Tarasenko.
The book highlights playing host to the 23rd NHL All-Star game in 1970 as well as hosting the Winter Classic earlier this year.
Soon after the Winter Classic came the retirement of Bob Plager’s No. 5 jersey, the seventh jersey to be retired by the St. Louis Blues. Plager was one of the original members of the team along with his brother, Barclay Plager, whose No. 8 jersey is also retired.
Hockey in a ‘baseball town’
It’s oft been said that St. Louis is a baseball town. The St. Louis Cardinals have an extensive and ardent fan base, as well as plenty of championships.
“People always talk about St. Louis being a baseball town but here they’ve had this love affair with this hockey team for 50 years now,” O’Neill said.
Perhaps one reason why St. Louis fans support the Blues is because they were founded here and have stayed.
Indeed, several top-level professional sports teams have left town since the Blues began playing in St. Louis – an NBA team and two NFL teams, the Cardinals and the Rams.
A championship has eluded the St. Louis Blues.
“The fact that they haven’t won, in some ways, is kind of an asset. It sort of leaves you wanting more,” O’Neill said.
“There’s something about hockey and the players that just sort of resonates with a Midwest town like St. Louis,” O’Neill said as to why hockey endures in St. Louis.
“I’ve been to a lot of Canadian cities and really St. Louis is a little bit like some of the Canadian cities I’ve been to and I think that’s one of the reasons there’s more than 40 Blues alumni that still live here,” he said.
Listen to the audio below to hear more stories about the early days of St. Louis Blues history.
What: Presentation and book signing of "When the Blues Go Marching In: An Illustrated Timeline of St. Louis Blues Hockey" with author Dan O’Neill
When: Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Kathryn Linnemann Branch of the St. Charles City-County Library District, 2323 Elm Street, St. Charles, MO 63301
Admission free, registration required
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.