The St. Louis Blues have been a big part of NHL history, but have always been a bridesmaid and never a bride. Founded in 1967, the Blues history is one that has had its ups and downs, including conference championships, individual awards, and some of the most famous names in hockey donning the note.
On January 20th, 1970, the St. Louis Blues played host to the 23rd annual NHL All-Star Game. It was the city’s first time having the honor and as a young expansion team it was an opportunity to show the league what the city was made of. It was also the first time that the All-Star Game was held outside of the Stanley Cup Champion’s home rink since 1948. The attendance was 15,423 in a game that saw the East best the West 4-1, although it was no surprise that the East, the original six teams, would beat the West consisting of the second six (St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Oakland Seals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Minnesota North Stars).
That season the St. Louis Blues were well represented in the All Star Game with Jacques Plante, Barclay Plager, Red Berenson, Frank St. Marseille, Jim Roberts, Gary Sabourin, and Ab McDonald all making the West Division’s roster.
While the game was not the best, history was made at the event in another way as well when then president of the National Hockey League, Clarence Campbell, announced that the NHL would be expanding to Buffalo and Vancouver for the next season.
It would be 18 years until the St. Louis Blues would again play host to the NHL’s All-Star Game. In 1988, the 39th annual NHL ASG was again held at the Arena in St. Louis. This year the attendance was 17,878 as the Wales Conference defeated the Campbell Conference 6-5 in overtime.
The 39th Annual game included quite a few players who would be or were connected to the St. Louis Blues organization including current player Rob Ramage, future players, Al MacInnis, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk, Peter Stastny, and future coach of the Blues Mike Keenan. The event matched Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky against one another and is still seen as a great game in the history of the NHL. Mario Lemieux scored three goals in the game and while Mats Naslun set an All-Star Game record with 5 assists that night.
Honorary Captains for the game included Al Arbour for the Wales Conference and Bob Plager for the Campbell Conference. Barclay Plager was also set to be an honorary captain, but passed away three days before the game from a brain hemorrhage due to his battle with a brain tumor. A moment of silence was held at the Arena before the start of the game in his honor.
Looking at the current St. Louis Blues lineup, it is somewhat puzzling to think about St. Louis not being considered as an All-Star Game location. The Blues have built a new arena, won a President’s Trophy, won their division, and had a number of first round draft picks make it big in the NHL since they last hosted the event. While the Scottrade Center may not be new anymore, it is still a great venue that has played host to the Frozen Four as well as the Final Four in basketball.
The city of St. Louis has also proved that it is more than capable of hosting such events. The St. Louis Cardinals two World Series Championships in 2006 and 2011 brought hundreds of thousands to the area, and everyone was impressed. To add to that, the St. Louis Cardinals played host to the MLB All-Star Game in 2009 with great success. The city was well received by those in town for the event and the Cardinals received a great deal of praise.
So why wouldn’t St. Louis be considered for the NHL’s All-Star Game? Well, during the 1990’s the St. Louis Blues were one of the best teams in the Western Conference. With Brett Hull leading the club, the Blues had plenty of media attention, but it was a time of expansion in the NHL. With new teams popping up in the South and the West, it made sense that some of these new clubs get the game to boost the amount of attention they received in their markets, but this time is over. Columbus was set to hold the event this season. They are a smaller city that is also a smaller hockey market. It makes sense for the NHL to bring the game to the area to help spark interest in the sport, but they also need to establish that they are willing to support their franchises who have a solid, consistent fan base in non-traditional hockey markets.
The St. Louis Blues may not make a lot of revenue, but they consistently sell out Scottrade Center. Earlier this week we talked about St. Louis as a possible host to the Winter Classic which was received with a lot of support. If the Winter Classic is an option, why not the All-Star Game?
So what do you think, should the NHL consider St. Louis for an All-Star Game? Would it work for the Blues? Let us know in the comments below.
That’s all for now Blues fans, as always, LET’S GO BLUES!