EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story ran Friday in our fan-run paper we sell outside every Blues home game. If you'd like to learn more about the paper or subscribe for the playoffs, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.
This is a story about a shirt. But a really important shirt if you're a St. Louis Blues fan.
On Feb. 9, the Blues celebrated the 50th birthday of the franchise. On that day in 1966 the NHL granted an expansion franchise to St. Louis. The team didn't have a name or a logo. On Aug. 30, 1966, still more than a year before the Blues actually took the ice, inaugural GM and head coach Lynn Patrick and part owner Sid Salomon III modeled home and away jerseys for the team. The Bluenote was an actual musical note and it was surrounded by the team's city and name. In other words it didn't really look like the jerseys the team would wear in the fall of 1967. It was an easy guess those two jerseys were never mass produced. One was white, the other blue and they were obviously each one of a kind.
These two jerseys represent the birth of the Blues. They were the first tangible items of the franchise, yet they never saw a game. And for a long time it seemed no one knew what happened to them. Our friend on Twitter, @STLBlueshistory, stumbled upon the owner of the white jersey, coincidentally on the team's 50th birthday. The rest is his story in his words:
Obviously I knew about the jerseys. I had wondered about them a little bit but just figured they were no longer around. More than a year ago someone asked about them. The Game Time Twitter account tweeted me and Chris Pinkert, director of Digital Media for the Blues. We were asked if we knew where the jerseys were. At that point I did not and neither did the Blues.
Fast forward to the 50th anniversary of the NHL announcing the expansion of six additional teams last month. I received a random direct message from a stranger saying he had the white jersey hanging on his wall. My first thought: this guy is full of it. But then I figured I would ask for proof with a picture. About 10 minutes later, I had an image of it framed on a wall. I was in shock. I was amazed. I couldn't believe the thing still existed much less had the chance to see a color picture of it. The only image I'd ever seen was in black and white.
I quickly asked if he knew the location of the blue jersey. He didn't know for sure, but he thought the Patrick family had it at one point.
We traded messages before talking on the phone the next day. I asked if I could come see the jersey and he agreed. We met in a parking lot where I saw the white jersey in person. I was amazed again. To be honest I had to sit there for a few minutes realizing what I just saw. Nearby there were two guys meeting to go to a Blues game that night. They probably thought I was nuts when I called them over and showed them a picture of the jersey.
During my visit with the owner, he said the jersey was purchased from Dean Patrick, the son of the late Lynn Patrick. It came with a signed letter from Dean Patrick stating his father wore it during Blues practices, hung in his office and was stored after Lynn passed away. Dean ended up with it and sold it in 1994 to the person who showed it to me.
The next thing floored me. Talking more with the owner, he said the jersey was for sale. In the meantime I shared a picture with reporter Jeremy Rutherford. He shared the picture with Blues lead owner Tom Stillman who I found out said the team was interested in buying it. And then I didn't hear anything for about 10 days.
I was wondering what happened with the jersey. Did the Blues buy it? I got an e-mail saying the Blues did not buy it. I was disappointed for the owner and the fact that the jersey did not end up where I think it truly belongs â on display at Scottrade Center.
When I had met to see the jersey in person, I had mentioned what it would take for me to sell the jersey to someone if I owned it. When we talked again I told him I would make an offer but it wouldn't be close to that price we had talked about. Shockingly, he countered with a price that I could afford (after talking with my wife, of course). She knew what I thought about the jersey and agreed we should buy it. We couldn't let it go to someone else and end up in a collector's basement for another 20 years. It marks the literal birth of the Blues.
The next day I went to the bank and got a check. Before getting that direct message, I never thought I would see the jersey in person much less get the chance to own it. I was floored. When he handed it over, I have to admit some tears came to my eyes. I now own what I would consider the most significant piece of Blues memorabilia that exists. To be honest, I am still amazed it's in my possession. And honestly, I still don't know why he reached out to me and trusted me to see it much less own it.
I am still in the process of finding out as much as possible about the jersey and the location of its twin. The two people that wore them in August 1966 are deceased, so I went to their sons. I was able to track down a phone number for Sid Salomon IV. He was nice enough to talk for a few minutes and I hope to speak with him at length soon.
I was able to get a mailing address for Dean Patrick. I sent him a letter with a picture of the jersey along with copies of articles about his father hoping the information would entice him to contact me. And like everything that has surprised me with this jersey, he did. We chatted about the jersey and a few other things. I asked him about the significance of No. 35 for both jerseys. He said the number was chosen because player numbers in those days only went 1-30 at the time, so no player would have 35. He said he thought he still might have the blue version, but it was worn all the time. He promised to do some checking, so hopefully we'll learn more about it.
I've learned the jerseys were made by Rawlings for a press conference on Aug. 30, 1966. Dean did say his father was responsible for the original logo design, but he wasn't sure why the team changed the design. In February 1967 the traditional Bluenote we're familiar with was announced.
The jersey will stay in my possession unless the Blues decide to purchase it. Like I said, it should be with them and somehow shared with fans, especially for the 50th anniversary season that's coming. And I'm not looking to make a profit. I see myself as a caretaker not an investor. They know how to contact me and hopefully others will see this piece of original team history.
I did tell me wife that if we do keep the jersey long term, I want to be buried in it. Thankfully I plan on being around for many, many more seasons. And then if we still have it, I'm sure my daughter will take great care of it.