Lighting the Lamp With Rick Ackerman
It was only three or four years ago that Blues Nation hated the Detroit Red Wings more than any other NHL opponent; remember? But then the red-clad octopus-lovers were relocated to the Eastern Conference for the 2013-14 season after 35 years in the same division of the Western Conference with the Blues and it just hasn’t been the same since.
Of course, now a much more intense rivalry has developed, and today we can all enjoy loathing the red-clad, Chelsea Dagger-singing Chicago Blackhawks even more than we despised the Winged Wheelers. This divisional rivalry with tonight’s visiting Hawks has gone on for 46 long years. In 1970, Chicago joined the California Golden Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues in the NHL’s West Division. Starting with the 1974-75 season, the Blues and Blackhawks found themselves in the Smythe Division of the Western Conference, along with the North Stars, Kansas City Scouts and Vancouver Canucks.
In 1980, the Blues and Blackhawks moved to the Norris Division. Thirteen years later, the league’s format was reconfigured once again and St. Louis and Chicago were delegated to the Central Division, along with the Red Wings, Dallas Stars (relocated from Minnesota), Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets (who moved to Phoenix in 1995). By 2000, Columbus and Nashville had joined the division when the league expanded while at the same time Dallas, Phoenix and Toronto went to different divisions. And finally in 2013, Columbus and Detroit left to go east while Dallas and the new Winnipeg Jets came back, joined by Colorado and Minnesota.
As a result of being in the same division for so long, there have not been very many trades between the Blues and Hawks. The most recent was almost six years ago when the Blues acquired minor leaguers Daryl Boyle and Joe Fallon for goaltender Hannu Toivonen and defenseman Danny Richmond. None of the four played a single game for either NHL team after the trade. Toivonen played two seasons as a Rockford Icehog and then returned to Sweden to play for the Malmo Redhawks Richmond played 15 games for Rockford and then signed with another AHL team, bouncing around that league until he went to play in Europe. Defenseman Boyle played 46 games for the AHL Peoria Rivermen over two seasons and then went to Germany to play in the DEL, the elite professional league in Germany. Goaltender Fallon only saw action in 10 Rivermen games before returning to the ECHL.
Prior to that, the last trade between St. Louis and Chicago was in January of 1978, 32 years earlier, when the Blues sold goaltender Eddie Johnston to the Blackhawks for cash. Johnston played four games and then retired, going on to coach the Hawks and Pittsburgh Penguins
Perhaps the most notable trade occurred on August 9, 1977, when hustling winger Pierre Plante was shipped to the Windy City for Dick Redmond, a high-scoring defenseman. Redmond played only 28 games for the Note tallying four goals and15 points before being traded to the Atlanta Flames, while Plante played 77 games for the Hawks, scoring 10 goals and 28 points. He was traded to the Rangers the following season.
Another somewhat meaningful trade, the first for both teams with each other, involved a swap of centers on February 8, 1972. Popular Christian Bordeleau went north while feisty Danny O’Shea came south. Bordeleau played 25 games in Chicago, netting six goals and 14 points, yet was traded back to St. Louis on September 15 for the rights to goaltender John Garrett. O’Shea played two seasons with the Blues and then signed with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA. Bordeleau played a total of 119 games over two seasons for the Blues, scoring 29 goals and 70 points. He signed with the Winnipeg Jets of the WHA in 1972. Garrett never played for the Blackhawks, opting to sign with the Minnesota Fighting Saints. He would go on to play for three other WHA teams and three NHL teams in his career. Currently he appears at times as a color commentator for Vancouver Canucks’ games on Sportsnet Pacific or nationally for Rogers Sportsnet.
Yes, in some 50 years, there have been only five trades between the Blues and Blackhawks, with Christian Bordeleau involved in 40% of them. And in retrospect, none of them was of much benefit to either team.
For those attending the game tonight, you will be spared having to watch the Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN and hearing Pierre McDouche and Eddie Ohhhhh gush and gloat about how great the Blackhawks are, bragging and crowing about past Stanley Cup championships. This overdone, usually one-sided NHL presentation began during the 2012-13 season, which featured the Blues in two games. St. Louis defeated Detroit in a shootout, 4-3 and lost to Colorado 1-0 in overtime. The following season, the Blues beat Chicago 3-2 and then lost to the Hawks 4-0. In 2014-15, Chicago prevailed 4-1 in the only St. Louis appearance on Wednesday that season. The following season, the Blues won a memorable 6-5 overtime thriller over the Blackhawks, beat the Red Wings 2-1 and won another memorable 3-2 shootout over Chicago.
Of course, we all happily remember that the Blues opened the current season with a 5-2 Wednesday night thrashing of the Hawks at the Madhouse on Madison. After tonight’s game, the Blues will once again be featured on the Rivalry on February 15, 2017, against the Red Wings, the last time the Note will play at the venerable, old, decrepit Joe Louis Arena.
A Blues’ victory narrows the gap between first and second place in the division, so… Let’s go Blues!