ST. LOUIS - In recent years, the Blues' hard hat awards have been, um… interesting to say the least.
In 2012, there was a goofy hot dog hat given to the "Weenie of the Game." In 2015, a pair of yellow rubber work boots were awarded to the team's best blue-collar worker. Later in 2015, a stuffed muskrat was passed around, and who knows what that was intended to represent.
This season, the Blues are going in a more classy direction, opting for an old-fashioned newsboy hat like the one original Blue Jimmy Roberts frequently wore when he joined the team's coaching staff in 1996.
"We started throwing ideas back and forth and we thought the hat would be a fun way to honor one of our alumni," Blues forward Alexander Steen said. "We wanted to start with Jimmy, with him being an original Blue. We thought it was pretty fitting."
After his 38 saves helped the Blues to a 4-2 win in Saturday's home opener, the team presented goalie Jake Allen with the hat as its inaugural winner. After the Blues' next win, Allen will choose a new winner, and that player will likely be wearing the hat when the media enters the locker room for postgame interviews.
Settling on a fitting tribute to a former Blue was the easy part, but finding the right hat proved to be much more difficult. Steen said he shopped online and purchased several hats before deciding which would work best.
"We were trying to get as close to Jimmy's hat as we could, but that's an original hat, so it was tough to find an exact replica of it," he said. "We did our best and made some modifications so everyone can wear it when they win it."
Roberts was the team's first selection in the 1967 expansion draft, giving him the distinction of the Original Blue. Before he arrived in St. Louis, Roberts won two Stanley Cups as a player with the Montreal Canadiens.
He played four and a half seasons in his first stint in St. Louis, helping the Blues to the Stanley Cup Final in each of its first three seasons. In 1971, he was traded back to Montreal, where he would win three more championships before returning to St. Louis for the 1977-78 season, his last in the NHL. Roberts was hired as the Blues' associate coach in 1996 and even served as the interim head coach for nine games after Mike Keenan's departure.
Steen placed a framed photo and biography of Roberts in the players' lounge at Scottrade Center to give the team's young players and newcomers an opportunity to learn about men like Roberts, who helped shape the franchise into what it is today. Steen said the tribute is just the beginning, as he is currently compiling a list of ways to honor more Blues legends in the seasons to come.
"The Blues Alumni are such a big part of who we are, and why we are where we are as an organization," Steen said. "In St. Louis, they're such a big part of our community, and even around us players, they're always around and always wanting to help in any way possible. This is one of our ways to honor them and show them respect."