ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — If Bobby Plager could see the outpouring of love and admiration for his life and legacy in the wake of his tragic passing Wednesday, it might have brought a tear to his eye.
The Blues confirmed Plager's death, saying in a statement, "today, our hearts are broken, but one day they will be warmed again by memories of his character, humor and strong love for his family, our community, the St. Louis Blues and generations of fans who will miss him dearly."
After wiping it away, he probably would have offered a quick-witted comment—all this fuss over me?
Plager stood at the podium on the ice before a Blues home game in February 2017 and addressed the sell-out crowd on the night St. Louis retired his No. 5 sweater. In his quintessential form, Plager relished the opportunity to crack a joke at his own expense after a video celebrating his accomplishments played on the big screen.
“I watched that film and I was really surprised,” Plager said, teeing up his punch line. “I got to see all my four goals again in the NHL.”
That was just Bobby Plager. A picture of humility and sincerity, but as affable and self-deprecating as anyone you could ever hope to meet.
Plager was a larger-than-life figure in the St. Louis sports community, yet he couldn't have been more down-to-earth or approachable. Anyone who had the pleasure of meeting the man would tell you as much.
An everyman who bled Blue more fervently than anyone in this town, Bobby Plager was known to eagerly mingle with Blues fans at Bobby's Place. You didn't have to look too far on social media Wednesday evening to notice the sea of profound affection flowing for the beloved Blues legend. Those who spent time with Plager were proud to share a photograph, an anecdote, a memory of the time they chatted with the humble titan of Blues hockey lore.
Bobby Plager had his number retired by a professional sports team and would still hang out talking to randos at his dive bar constantly. Incredible way to live your life. May we all live like that— John Fleming (@johnjf125) March 24, 2021
The story of St. Louis Blues hockey simply cannot be told without the presence of Bob Plager woven throughout the club’s very fabric. From the beginning, he was there.
Though his NHL playing career began with the New York Rangers in 1964, Plager only suited up for 29 games across three seasons for New York. The birth of Plager as a St. Louis hockey legend came in 1967, when he was traded to the fledgling St. Louis franchise as it was set to join the National Hockey League. In the club’s first year of existence that season, Plager cemented himself as a rugged NHL defenseman for the Blues on their way to an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Blues, of course, would reach three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals from 1968 to 1970, ultimately coming up short in capturing the chalice each of those years. That desire to hoist the Cup drove Plager throughout the remainder of his career with the Blues as a player, coach and executive—more on that in a moment.
Far from the only Plager to skate for the Blues, Bob was joined by his brother Bill in St. Louis from 1968-1972, and he held down the blue line alongside his brother Barclay for the bulk of his time on the Blues roster. It was a family affair for the Plagers, but it was Bobby who remained a constant with the Blues in various roles through each decade that followed. Plager contributed to the Blues organization into his 70s, not knowing whether he’d ever live to see the day that the dream he carried with him throughout his adult life would be realized.
And then 2019 happened.
The last-place Blues found new life in the middle of their season, rallying around a new head coach, a fourth-string goaltender and a Laura Branigan song from the early 1980s. Nothing made sense, yet for the first time in Blues history, it was as though everything did for those magical five months as they went from basement-dweller to the mountaintop of the hockey universe.
I don't think anything in my life has ever given me chills quite like watching Blues fans absolutely lose their minds the moment Bobby Plager's face faded onto the big screen for this video. https://t.co/tkoMah2Lda— Brenden Schaeffer (@bschaeffer12) March 24, 2021
Amid all the insanity and improbability that accompanied the team's memorable run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs—Jaden Schwartz in Winnipeg, Pat Maroon in double-overtime, the hand-pass, Jordan Binnington’s otherworldly first period of Game 7 in Boston—every single Blue knew the stakes of those moments went beyond their own goals or aspirations.
Through it all, they played for Bobby, wearing the same Note he once wore, fighting for the chance to put the Cup into his hands. Each of them knew what it would mean. When it finally happened, though, Plager articulated the depths of the joy derived from the experience in a way only he could.
R.I.P Bobby 💔 you were always smiling and always had a great story to tell. The @StLouisBlues family will miss having you around #5. My thoughts and prayers are with Bobby and his family during this difficult time. #BobbyPlager— Pat Maroon (@patmaroon) March 24, 2021
He was joyous for himself, of course. A lifelong dream had been realized. But more than that, Plager knew the heartbeat of a city that lived and died for its hockey team. He, better than anyone, recognized how special the moment was for so many others throughout Blues Nation.
“It's unbelievable,” Plager said on the main stage following the Blues’ championship parade in June 2019. “I've been here, I was very fortunate. I came here the first year, played in the first game. My goal was to win a Stanley Cup. I never got to win it, three times there. But this year: I got my parade. And it was a heckuva parade.
“And I’ll tell you, as happy as I am for myself and the players, I've run into people who have been season tickets here for 50-something years, 40-something years. I see them now, they've got tears in their eyes. I am more happy for you than anybody else here. Thank you St. Louis. You're the greatest fans.”
Bobby Plager got his parade. To the city that loved him just as much as he loved it, he gave so much more, leaving a St. Louis legacy that no amount of time will ever diminish.
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