The St. Louis Blues are a professional ice hockey team based in St. Louis, Missouri. They are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The team is named after the famous W. C. Handy song “St. Louis Blues”, and plays in the 19,150-seat Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis. The franchise was founded in 1967 as one of the expansion teams during the league’s original expansion from six to twelve teams.
The Blues were one of the six teams added to the NHL in the 1967 expansion, along with the Minnesota North Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and California Seals.
St. Louis was the last of the expansion teams to officially gain entry into the league, chosen over Baltimore at the insistence of the Chicago Blackhawks. At the time, the Blackhawks were (and still are) owned by the influential Wirtz family of Chicago, which also owned the then-decrepit St. Louis Arena.
The Wirtzes sought to unload the Arena, which had not been well-maintained since the 1940s, and thus pressed the NHL to give St. Louis (which had never even submitted a formal expansion bid) a franchise over Baltimore. The team’s first owners were insurance tycoon Sid Salomon Jr., his son, Sid Salomon III, and Robert L. Wolfson, who were granted the franchise in 1966. Sid Salomon III convinced his initially wary father to make a bid for the team. Salomon then spent several million dollars on massive renovations for the 38-year-old Arena, which increased the number of seats from 12,000 to 15,000.
The Blues were originally coached by Lynn Patrick who, after a quick resignation, was replaced by Scotty Bowman. Although the league’s rules effectively kept star players with the Original Six teams, the Blues managed to stand out in the inferior Western Division. Capitalizing on a playoff format that required an expansion team to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Blues reached the final round each of their first three seasons, though they were swept first by the Montreal Canadiens in 1968 and 1969 and then by the Boston Bruins in 1970.
While the first Blues teams included aging and faded veterans like Doug Harvey, Don McKenney and Dickie Moore, the veteran goaltending tandem of Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante proved more durable, winning a Vezina Trophy in 1969 behind a sterling defense that featured players like skilled defensive forward Jim Roberts and hardrock brothers Bob and Barclay Plager. Phil Goyette won the Lady Byng Trophy for the Blues in 1970 and New York Rangers castoff Red Berenson became the expansion team’s first major star at center. The Arena quickly became one of the loudest buildings in the NHL, a reputation it maintained throughout its tenure as the Blues’ home.
During that time, Salomon gained a reputation throughout the league as the ultimate players’ owner. He gave his players cars, signed them to deferred contracts, and treated them to vacations in Florida. The players, used to being treated like mere commodities, felt the only way they could pay him back was to give their best on the ice every night.
The Blues have a tradition of playing an organ rendition of W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” at the start of every period and singing “When the Saints Go Marching In” before every game, although most long time fans replace the word ‘Saints’ with ‘Blues’, after a goal and at the end of the period. The Budweiser Theme “Here Comes The King” is still played during games on the organ also. A foghorn was added during the 1992-93 season at the St. Louis Arena and was carried over to The Kiel Center (currently known as Scottrade Center) in 1994.
The team also has a long tradition of fan-produced programs, sold outside the arena and providing an often biting, sarcastic, humor filled alternative to team/league produced periodicals. The longest-running fan publication, Game Night Revue, was created by a group of fans in the mold of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Blue Line Magazine.
It operated for over 10 years, from 1994 to 2005, when its owner decided not to resume the magazine after the 2004/05 NHL lockout (one final oversized “goodbye” issue was distributed the first two home games of the 2005-2006 season). After hockey resumed in 2005, a few months after GNR’s final issue, a new publication, St. Louis Game Time, was formed by several former GNR staffers, as well as other fans who wanted to write.
Since 1990, the Towel Man has been a Blues’ tradition. After every Blues goal the Towel Man runs down his aisle to a platform on the upper deck and waves a rally towel, and with fans, counts the number of goals scored by the Blues. The towel is then thrown into the crowd.
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