Ask Blues legend Bob Plager who he considered the Blues’ biggest rival in his playing days and his answer might surprise you.
“The Chicago Blackhawks was a big rivalry, but our biggest rival in those days was the Philadelphia Flyers,” Plager said. “That was war every time we played them. Not only on the ice, but there were some nights where we had to go up in the stands, too.”
Believe it or not, that’s not an exaggeration.
Plager and several of his teammates actually jumped into the stands to brawl with Flyers fans when they threw a beer on Al Arbour, the Blues’ coach at the time.
With just 17 police officers on staff for that game, more were called in, and it took 150 of them to restore order at the rink.
But the rivalry didn't start there. It actually began when the Blues were an expansion team during the 1967-68 season. In their first playoff appearance in franchise history, they met the Flyers in a brutal, hard-fought seven-game series that saw the Blues emerge victorious, but not without plenty of broken bones and bruises. The series included plenty of scraps and lots of fights, as Plager so elegantly put it.
The next season, Blues forward Red Berenson tied an NHL record by scoring six goals in one game against Philadelphia, dancing around tough-guy defenseman Ed Van Impe on all six goals. The Flyers’ defenseman, who was physically threatened prior to the game by Plager, his brother Barclay and Noel Picard, was afraid to get near Berenson and ended up with a minus-6 in the game.
According to Plager, Philadelphia’s “Broad Street Bullies” of the 1970s were born as a direct result of the Blues’ physical domination over the Flyers.
With such a rich history, it’s no wonder that today’s Blues are excited to open the 2010-11 regular season against the Flyers, who lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals earlier this summer.
The puck drops on the new season on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center, when the Blues host the defending Eastern Conference Champions.Jaroslav Halak
, who led the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens to the Conference Finals several months ago, was beaten in five games by Philadelphia after defeating the top-seeded Washington Capitals and the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in earlier rounds.
“(The Flyers) are a big team and each guy is big. They try to crash the net and create some rebounds and score off them. It’s been working pretty well for them for a lot of years,” Halak said recently. “I think they have some really good forwards, and even on their (defense) they have some pretty skilled guys. You just need to take them as a group, not as individuals. When you have five guys out there, you have to outwork them.”
Halak would love nothing more than to give the Flyers a little payback in at this season's home opener.
“It’s going to be a new challenge. It’s kind of funny, because I got traded here and the home opening game is against Philadelphia, ” he said. “It’s going to be a big challenge and I think everybody’s looking forward to it.”
And that goes for Plager, too, who will be at Scottrade Center watching the game.
“You’re always looking forward to opening night and Philadelphia,” Plager said. “It’s not quite the rivalry we used to have, but still, in our minds, we hate Philadelphia.”