The St. Louis Blues are entering a golden age, but many fans look back to the late 90’s as one of the best times in team history.
One of the players that many will remember from his short lived days in St. Louis is Terry Yake.
Yake was a threat on the ice for the Blues as he had a way with the puck and was able to put up some serious numbers. While not his most productive seasons in the NHL, Yake had a lot of success with the Blues and was a favorite among many fans.
Recently I was given the opportunity to speak to Yake about his time with the St. Louis Blues and his career in general. This is what Yake had to say:
Yake: When I was drafted in 1987, I was at the draft in Detroit. It was a very exciting time. I was with my parents, and the relief of having an NHL team say they were interested in you, bye drafting you, felt like the culmination of years of hard work. Although the process and just begun, and the ultimate goal was always to play in the National Hockey League, this was an important step. I was thrilled to say the least.
Hodschayan: In the 1992-93 season you put up an incredible 53 points in just 66 games. Looking back, was your most successful season your favorite to play?
Yake: Your favorite seasons aren’t always gauged by how many points you score. Although that was successful start my NHL career, the following season in Anaheim, when I led team in scoring was extremely exciting as well. Three years in St. Louis when we had a chance to win the Stanley Cup each season were probably the most satisfying, as we went into hockey games knowing we were going to win, with a unified season-long goal of the cup.
Hodschayan: You spent time with the Hartford Whalers, the Anaheim Ducks, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the St. Louis Blues, and the Washington Capitals. Which was your favorite team to play for and why?
Yake: My favorite team was the St. Louis Blues, as the three seasons here were so exciting with the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup call. We believe every night we would win and had the players to backup that confidence. When you have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, that is a dream every young kid has growing up playing hockey.
Hodschayan: After spending years playing in the NHL, AHL and IHL you made the transition to a couple European leagues. What was it like to play in the DEL and Swiss-B leagues? How did they compare to the NHL?
Yake: The DEL in Germany was a very competitive league with many former National Hockey League players. The level of play was high and it was very enjoyable. Originally in the first season, there is a culture shock that you must get over, but once you do and learn to deal with local ways of life, it is great. I really enjoyed playing in Switzerland, as I had accustomed to the European lifestyle and the hockey was equally competitive. We met some great friends, that we stay in touch with today, and still hold Switzerland and certain regions that we lived, very dear to my heart. Obviously, neither league is the National Hockey League, and as a Canadian hockey player I did not grow up dreaming to play in Europe. That being said, it is a great place to transition in the latter years of your career.
Hodschayan: Seeing a guy like Vladimir Tarasenko make the transition to the North American game, how much of an impact do you think the difference in ice size has on the game?
Yake: I’ve seen with many players transitioning from the larger ice surface to a smaller ice surface be very successful and vice versa. I think it is less about the size of the ice, and it is about quality of the player. Good players will be successful in both ring sizes. But, some players are definitely better suited to the creative game which is needed on the larger ice surface, as you have more time. And some are better suited to the smaller ice surface which generally leads to more physical play.
Yake: The history and reputation of the Blues, and a good friend and former coach, Jimmy Roberts, who coached me in 1991 in Springfield Massachusetts, were my main deciding factors in joining St. Louis and 97/98. I won a Calder Cup in 1991 Jimmy Roberts was my coach, and I think his influence with the Blues organization help me get my first try out and contract here. I also played with Joel Quenneville, the coach at the time, in Hartford. So there were some good connections from the past that paved my way here.
Hodschayan: Your first season as a Blue was Brett Hull‘s last season. Anyone who has played with Hull has a good story about their time with him. Do you have any you would be willing to share?
Yake: Like every new player looking St. Louis Blues, Brett Hull picked up my stick and promptly told me it looked disgusting. Looking back now, I was quite taken back by the comment but realized it was not personal, it was just Hull. Funny no matter who was in the way, nothing would stop a good laugh.
Hodschayan: Chris Pronger was the captain of the Blues when you were a member of the team and Al MacInnis was his support on the blueline. Looking at Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, and Kevin Shattenkirk, how do you think the current Blues defense stands up against the team then?
Yake: It would be hard and unfair to compare anyone against Pronger and MacInnis, as they won back-to-back Norris trophies in the years I played here. The amount of minutes those two players logged, and the things they didn’t offensively and defensively we’re truly Norris trophy worthy. But we definitely have a great start to young defense that I think is going to carry St. Louis Blues a long ways in the future.
Hodschayan: You played more than 400 games in the NHL and put up a total of 197 points. What do you miss most about playing in the NHL?
Yake: Like every player that retires, the first thing we miss is camaraderie with the guys. Competition, going to battle with a group of guys is something you can’t get anywhere else.
I want to thank Terry for doing this interview. It is always great to hear from former Blues and to get some insight about just how great of a hockey city St. Louis truly is. With one of the largest alumni memberships in the NHL, St. Louis seems to be a place that players have fond memories of. Terry’s feelings are the same and ours of his playing days in the note.
LET’S GO BLUES!