Bob Plager, an original member of the St. Louis Blues who became a fan favorite for his physical playing style and the many roles he filled on the team after his retirement, died Wednesday. He was 78 years old.
“It’s unimaginable to imagine the St. Louis Blues without Bobby Plager,” the Blues said in a statement on their website. “He was an original member of the St. Louis Blues in 1967, but also an original in every sense of the word. Bobby’s influence at all levels of the Blues organization has been deep and everlasting, and his loss to our city will be deep. ”
Plager ranks 10th in the history of the Blues with 616 games played and 762 penalty minutes. He retired in 1978 after playing 645 NHL games for the New York Rangers (29) and Blues (616), scoring 146 points (20 goals, 126 assists) with 800 penalty minutes. His n ° 5 is one of the seven numbers withdrawn by the Blues.
Bob’s older brother Barclay played 10 seasons for St. Louis from his first NHL season in 1967-68 to 1976-77 and remained with the organization after his playing days in various roles, serving twice coach, until his death in 1988 from a cancerous brain tumor.
Bill Plager, the youngest of the brothers, played four of his nine NHL seasons with the Blues from 1968-69 to 1971-72, and died in 2016.
Bob Plager had worked with the Blues in their community relations department, under his bushy beard, one of the organization’s most recognizable and beloved figures. He has also been an analyst on KMOX radio at home games for the Blues and on post-game shows.
No one was happier for the 2019 Stanley Cup Blues Championship than Plager, who lit the ice at TD Garden in Boston when the team won their first title. The last player had won a victory lap on the ice that night when Bill Armstrong, the Blues’ assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting, presented the trophy to Plager, his eyes filled with tears as he squeezed the Cup. over his head.
A few months later, along with general manager Doug Armstrong, Plager took the Stanley Cup to St. Louis’ grave in Barclay, pouring an emotional beer toast to his brother.
Like Barclay, Bob served in several titles with the Blues after his playing career. He was named the team’s 16th coach on May 1, 1992, coaching the team for 11 games (4-6 with a draw) to start the 1992-93 season. He coached Peoria in the International Hockey League in 1990-91, winning the Turner Cup championship. Plager received Coach of the Year honors.
There were few areas of the Blues organization that did not bear his fingerprints. Plager was director of professional team scouting, vice president and director of player development, special assistant to the general manager of the Blues, assistant to the director of hockey operations, coach of the Blues branch of the Central Hockey League of Salt Lake City, and was a scout for St. Louis, dealing with special missions.
“Few of the men in our game’s history were more closely connected to a city and a franchise than Bob Plager was to St. Louis and the Blues,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “… Respected by his colleagues for his tenacity, he was loved by teammates for his welcoming personality and forged a fierce bond with St. Louis fans that would last a lifetime. The National Hockey League family mourns the tragic passing of an original St. Louis and sends our condolences to his daughter, Melissa, son, Bobby, two grandchildren and countless supporters in St. Louis and everywhere in hockey. ”
Born March 11, 1943 in Kirkland Lake, Ont., Plager arrived with the Blues for their inaugural season with thunder in his hips and a chip in his shoulder, his toughness established by the fact that he set the record for the Ontario Major Junior Hockey Association for penalty minutes. , breaking the standard previously held by Barclay.
Plager, a defenseman, had played 29 games for the New York Rangers prior to the 1967 expansion and was traded to the Blues by the Rangers on June 6, 1967 with Gary Sabourin, Tim Ecclestone and Gord Kannegiesser for defenseman Rod Seiling.
For more than a decade with the Blues, Plager rocked the opposition with massive body checks, his dreaded hip checks throughout the league and a glove-dropping fearlessness against anyone.
Plager was largely the reason the Blues made it to the Stanley Cup Finals their first three seasons, swept away in 1968 and 1969 by the Montreal Canadiens, then in 1970 by the Boston Bruins.
“I’m sad beyond words,” said former goaltender Glenn Hall, Blues first draft in the 1967 expansion draft and a dear friend of Plager on and off the ice. “Bob played such an important role in the success of those early Blues teams. He brought the guys together and was instrumental in keeping the locker room loose. We have kept in touch over the years and it was always so nice to be in his company. . I extend my deepest condolences to Bob’s family, his fans and the Blues organization. ”
Plager opened a restaurant in Saint-Louis and was named the best-groomed player on the team. His practical jokes left no one untouched, from the Blues leadership to everyone on the roster, including his brothers.
“Bobby liked to say that he was No. 5 in our program, but No. 1 in our hearts,” said the Blues in their statement. “Today our hearts are broken, but one day they will be warmed again by the memories of his character, his humor and his love for his family, our community, the St. Louis Blues and generations of fans who will be sorely missed.
“The St. Louis Blues send all of our love and support to his family, and we hope everyone finds strength knowing that Bobby had his parade. ”
Photos: Images HHoF