Fifty years ago today, we were gifted with the franchise that would cause us all so much joy and so much frustration. So much optimism, so much dejection. So much alcohol, and so much alcohol.
The Blues, fittingly enough, were birthed with no owner and with major pull from Dollar Bill Wirtz and James D. Norris, owners of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Arena. They wanted to sell, and a hockey team would be the way to turn a buck - not to mention give their Blackhawks an immediate regional rival. This is what Clarence Campbell meant when he said that the league wanted a team in St. Louis due to "geographic location."
The team was founded as a baby brother to the Chicago Blackhawks, in a round-about way, so it's stayed. But this is a baby brother with a chip on his shoulder, one that isn't afraid to let you know that he's his own man. This is a franchise that began its time in the league with three consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances, with the Plagers and Al Arbour and Glenn Hall and Jaques Plante. The Blues have always been a fighter, a scrapper bankrolled by the Salomon brothers and coached by Scotty Bowman.
They almost moved to Saskatoon. They missed a draft. They were manhandled by Purina and by Bill Laurie, their numbers were fluffed by Dave Checketts.
And still, there they were, fighting and scrapping with powerhouse teams and Presidents Trophy winners, and teams that wound up at the bottom of the barrel. The fight's always been there in the regular season. The fight even shows up in the post-season once in a while, just enough to make us forget over the summer what transpired in the spring.
They're frustrating, but they're ours. Like Bobby Plager told the Blues' official website:
"It was the place to be," Bob Plager said of hockey’s beginning in St. Louis. "People dressed up in suits. For people in St. Louis, this was their team. It was a family. The fans were there every game, you waved at them, they sang - and when you lost a game, it was ‘we' lost the game and if you won the game, it was ‘we' won the game. The Salomons made it a family."
Like most families, ours has some people that you'd rather not see on the holidays. There are the guys that you want to ask when they're finally going to put their degree to good use. There are the fun good time uncles who you know will always be fun, but kind of ultimately disappointing. There are the people that have been shunned who have turned out to be wonderful successes.
But they're our family, and we love them, and we've loved them for fifty years. We'll love them for another fifty, hopefully with a Cup or two awarded in that time. There's nothing that any of us want for their birthday more than a party on Market Street.