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50 things you need to know about the St. Louis Blues

Then St. Louis Blues coach Al Arbour, left, and general manager Scotty Bowman, centre, are pictured on Sept. 11, 1970. Toronto Sun files
Then St. Louis Blues coach Al Arbour, left, and general manager Scotty Bowman, centre, are pictured on Sept. 11, 1970. Toronto Sun files

The St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup history isn’t big on wins (0-12), but is rich in memories.

Here are 50 tidbits on the Blues, who appeared in the final their first three seasons, 1968-70, twice against Montreal and are finally back to meet the Boston Bruins nearly a half century later.

1. Lynn Patrick of the hockey dynasty family began as the Blues’ GM and coach, but early in ’67-68 turned bench duties over to young tactician Scotty Bowman.

2. Bowman often referred to his first year in St. Louis as his finest hour of coaching, inheriting seven players 35 or older. The Blues farm team in Kansas City was eliminated early, so Bowman decided to call up former Hab Doug Harvey to join another ex-Hab star, Dickie Moore.

3. The Blues’ first Eastern scout was Cliff Fletcher, like Bowman, trained in Montreal under the great Toe Blake. Fletcher soon became assistant GM.

4. Because of a rotating system of home ice advantage introduced in ‘68 between the East and the new six-team West Division, the ‘68 series began in St. Louis. They were 24 points behind Montreal.

5. Despite being swept, all were one-goal decisions, two in overtime.

6. Barclay Plager scored the franchise’s first Cup final goal against Montreal, but Jacques Lemaire won Game 1 for the Canadiens in OT.

7. The famous Plager brothers from Kirkland Lake; Barclay, Bob and Bill, all made it into the ‘69 and ‘70 playoffs, though Bill, the youngest, was absent in ‘68. They combined for 247 penalty minutes in those three springs. “Absolutely fearless,” said Bowman of the rough house trio.

8. Their father, Gus, was an amateur hockey referee, who worked many of their games as kids. He gave them few breaks and many arguments erupted around the dining table.

9. Some of the most legendary scraps in the Blues’ history were between the Plagers in the room or on the road, but teammate Terry Crisp said if outsiders picked on one, all three would jump aboard, including one NHL game where they went into the crowd after fans.

10. Mischievous Bob would get Bill, who had a speech impediment, to repeat a foe’s name hard for him to pronounce, such as Pittsburgh’s Duane Rupp, then pretend not to hear Bill’s response until his exasperated sibling was shouting “Wupp! Wupp! Wupp!” for all to hear.

11. Bob was a scout for many years. Barclay, a former Blues coach, passed away in 1988, Bill in 2016.

12. St. Louis won its first ever playoff game against the Flyers, a 14-save 1-0 shutout for Glenn Hall and a third-period goal by Jim Roberts.

13. The Blues also won a seventh game in that series, then eliminated Minnesota in five to win the West, clinched by a double OT goal from Ron Schock.

14. There were a combined 74 shots in Game 1 of the ‘68 final, a great duel between Hall and Gump Worsley.

15. The Blues inclusion in the ‘67 expansion was a fluke. They weren’t even on the radar, as Buffalo, Vancouver and Baltimore were discussed. Doubling the league wasn’t guaranteed, either, as Chicago didn’t want to share resources built up the previous decade.

But the Hawks realized they could unload the white-elephant St. Louis Arena, neglected since the 1940s. They made a team in Missouri their price of a yes vote, while the NHL saw potential in a midwest city to break up trips to Los Angeles and Oakland.

16. The Blues had no certain ownership group, until one night when Sid Salomon, a St. Louis insurance exec, happened to be dining in Toots Shor’s famous New York diner. The two got talking hockey and Shor mentioned his Ranger connections. He called coach Emile Francis just as he was leaving the team office and Francis had Salomon come right away to meet his boss, Bill Jennings.

“Three hours later, Bill laid it all out for him,” Francis told the Sun years ago, “what he needed to apply, that he’d have to buy the arena, everything.”

17. In naming the team, the Salomon family risked a lawsuit from the estate of W.C. Handy, jazz composer of St. Louis Blues, but judged the publicity would be worth it.

18. The NHL had been to St. Louis once before. The original Ottawa Senators relocated there in 1934-35, but won just 11 of 48 games and folded.

19. Bowman on his first look at the Arena in ‘67, then under massive upgrading to prep for the Blues: “It was awful. Sand was everywhere and I’m wondering, ‘What am I doing here?’

20. During the long overdue reno, workers removed an old fencing that had segregated blacks from whites in the Eagles’ days.

21. According to former referee Ron Wicks, the Salomons were always hyper critical of NHL officiating and believed there was a vendetta against their team. They threatened to sell the Blues in the early years in protest.

22. Ralston Purina, which owned the Blues in the early 1980s, tried to sell the franchise to Saskatoon, a move blocked by the NHL.

23. Current Blues forward Jaden Schwartz is their second player with multiple hat-tricks in the playoffs. Frank St. Marseille was the other.

24. St, Marseille, one of nine children from mining country in Levack, Ont., got his NHL start when brother Fred, a singer, wrote Patrick, urging him to scout Frank.

25. The Blues and the 1938-40 Leafs are the only teams to lose three straight Cup finals. St. Louis remains the only team never to win a game.

26. To date, six Hall of Famers graced those ‘68-70 St, Louis clubs: goalies Hall and Jacques Plante, defencemen Doug Harvey and Al Arbour, Moore and Bowman.

27. Hall became the first goalie to lose a final with three different teams; Detroit, Chicago (twice) and St. Louis. He did squeeze in a Cup with Chicago in ‘61.

28. Hall was picked in the expansion draft, but had to be talked out of retirement. Patrick and Salomon went to his farm in Stony Plain, Alta., and split the difference when the Blues offered $45,000 and Hall asked $50,000.

29. Bowman had coached the Peterborough Petes in the OHA and liked the play of winger Larry Keenan of St. Michael’s College. He was among the Blues’ selection off Toronto on expansion day and scored the club’s first regular season goal.

30. In the ‘68 series, Hall became the second goalie after Detroit’s Roger Crozier to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP with the losing team.

31. In ‘68-69, the Blues added Plante, with he and Hall combining to win the first Vezina Trophy by an expansion team.

32. In bettering Hall in the ‘69 final, Worsley became the last goalie to win a Cup without wearing a mask.

33. Eight members of the ‘68-70 Blues won Cups with the Canadiens: Moore, Red Berenson, Jim Roberts, Plante, Jean-Guy Talbot, Ab McDonald, Harvey and Phil Goyette.

34. Seven Blues were former or future Leafs, including three who’d won a title with Toronto; Ron Stewart, Arbour and Don McKenney. Others with Leaf connections included Plante, Keenan, Gary Sabourin and Tim Ecclestone.

35. Hockey Night’s Danny Gallivan and Dick Irvin mentioned the Harvey-Moore story line many times during Game 1 of the ‘68 final, angering the wife of a prominent Habs’ exec. She wanted the pair fired for their alleged pro-Blues’ slant, but her husband refused.

36. Only once in the eight final round losses to Montreal did the Blues lose by more than two goals.

37. Bowman was a guest analyst with Irvin in the ‘71 final against Chicago and confided he was leaving the Blues. His great run in Montreal began two weeks after.

38. Defenceman Arbour was the Blues captain, one of the first to wear glasses on the ice and the last in the NHL to do so.

39. Arbour did much better in the Cup final as a coach. His New York Islanders made five straight appearances between 198-84, winning the first four.

40. Against the Bruins in the 1970 final, Bowman came up with the strategy of covering Bobby Orr with another defenceman, the trusted Roberts.

“Something I don’t think had been tried before,” Bowman noted. “Orr had just that one goal, but it was Johnny Bucyk and those other guys who went wild against us.”

41. The iconic photo of Orr, getting tripped by Noel Picard as he sailed past the net with the 1970 OT winner was taken by Ray Lussier of the Boston Record-American. Lussier left his assigned spot in OT for one at the other end of the Garden near the Blues’ goal where a competitor fatefully vacated his seat.

42. During their first season, Picard would try and fire up many Blues before a game against an Original Six team, going around the room to remind who’d left them unprotected.

43. Picard was briefly a broadcaster for the Blues after he retired.

44. Blues’ announcer Dan Kelly made the famous Orr goal call. So revered was Kelly at the Arena that the rink organist played at his 1989 funeral.

45. Every member of the Blues roster in those three Cup finals were born in Canada, with the exception of Czechoslovakian winger Jaroslav Jirik who played three regular season games in 1969-70.

46. In November of ‘68, Berenson scored six goals in a road game against the Flyers, still a league record.

47. Goyette, who played with the Blues on the ‘68-69 team had just 131 career penalty minutes in 941 career games, won the Lady Byng Trophy that year.

48. Crisp, Berenson and Roberts were among many other Blue’s from those years who went on to coach in the NHL and elsewhere.

49. If the Blues beat the Bruins, Buffalo and Vancouver will move into second place behind Toronto for most seasons without a Cup. Both began play in 1970.

50. By just making the final, the Blues leave the Arizona Coyotes (the first Winnipeg Jets’ entry in ‘79) second to the Leafs for longest spell without a championship final appearance.

lhornby@postmedia.com

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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