Saturday, August 13, 2022

St. Louis Blues Before They Were The Blues

It is all quite complicated.

In Ottawa, 1883 saw the creation of the team. On warm days, fans would throw lemons at opposing teams and get sprayed with ice melt. The Ottawa Hockey Club won in challenges to the Stanley Cup (the contest was different back then). It did so in 1903 and 1904, 1905 and 1906. Ernie “Moose”, Johnson, a man who carried a stick so thick, that it could reach 99 inches, knocked the top hat of the governor-general in 1906.

The team joined the National Hockey League in 1917 (known as the National Hockey Association until 1917). The Ottawa Senators were then called the team. They won the Stanley Cup in 1920, 1921, and 1923 respectively, making them the NHL’s first dynasty. Canadian sports editors would choose the Senators as the greatest team in the country for the first half-century.

Unfortunately, Ottawa was a small market at that time. Some fans lost interest when the NHL expanded to include the southern neighbor. The Senators were in financial trouble in 1931 when they sold their top players and finished last for two consecutive seasons.

The team relocated to St. Louis to pay $60,000 in losses. They were reborn as Eagles in honor of a beer logo. (Prohibition had just ended. This was a great coup because St. Louis, at the time the seventh-largest city in the U.S., had been denied an NHL franchise two years prior. It was too costly during the Great Depression to travel to the Midwest. The Flyers were already a professional hockey team in St. Louis. However, they refused to protest the new arrivals.

Here was the Eagles’ only season (1934-35). Instead of the iconic red-white-and-blue uniforms worn by the early Eagles, the players wore patriotic reds-white-and blue instead. The league decided to keep the Senators in Canada, rather than having them join the American Division. All that costly travel drained their budget. They finished last in their respective division. Georges “Buck”, Boucher was appointed head coach. The team did slightly better but there wasn’t a lot of attendance. They sold all players this time.

St. Louis waited 32 years for an NHL team after the Senators’ short and not-so shining season. With the 1967 expansion, the Blues were born. This year they won their first Stanley Cup.

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