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My Turn: Plager remembers Picard

by Bob Plager / Special to stlouisblues.com

Throughout the season, stlouisblues.com will feature first-person accounts of personal stories from within the St. Louis Blues organization. The new online series, titled "My Turn" will give fans unparalled access to personal stories from current Blues players and alumni. The first story comes from former Blue Bob Plager, who shared his feelings shortly after learning of the passing of his former teammate and close friend, Noel Picard.

 

Noel Picard was one of the best friends and teammates I ever had.

He had been sick for quite awhile now. A long time ago, they didn't give him much time. But Noel was tough, so he stuck around a lot longer than anybody probably thought he would.

That's just who he was.

The other day, his son told me they were going to give Noel morphine for the pain and that was tough to hear. You wait for the news about his passing to come and when it does, it's still a shock.

Noel was such a big, happy-go-lucky guy and enjoyed life.

He was the life of everything.

Our first year with the St. Louis Blues, it was a team that was put together from the expansion draft. We had great parts, but I look at one of the most important parts of the hockey team in those days and it was Noel Picard. He kept everybody honest. He gave our star players room to become star players and better hockey players.

On the night they were retiring my sweater, I went up to speak. My number was going up there but there were certain people that made it possible for No. 5 to be up there, and if I look at anybody to thank for that, I'd definitely look at No. 4. He gave me a chance to be a better player. He made a lot of us better players and our success going into the playoffs that year, he was a big, big part of us being successful. I know he made a better player out of me.

When I played and my partner was Noel Picard, I was 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. When he left our hockey team after 1973, all of a sudden I was 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

That's the difference he made for each and every one of us.

The people in this city - everybody knew Noel Picard, not only as a hockey player, but he did radio and color commentary, too. He also owned a bar down in Cuba, MO. Everybody in this city from those days will have a Noel Picard story. He was around the city, everybody loved him and everybody talked about him. He fit in with everybody. He could go out and he'd drink a beer and if you were on the street and didn't have money for a beer, he brought you in and he bought you one.

That's how Noel was.

When he came to St. Louis, me and him hit it off. He was my brother's caretaker. You didn't touch my brother, you didn't go against my brother, he loved my brother and he took care of him. He was not only my teammate, but he was my roommate and he was my best friend.

Noel was born on Christmas Day, so I phoned him every year on his birthday. Last year when I called I couldn't get ahold of him. That's when his son told me he was starting to slip, and then he got cancer.

The last month or so, he really, really slipped.

Now that my friend is gone, it made me realize something. The first two years in St. Louis, my brother Barclay and Al Arbour were partners on defense. Noel and I were partners on defense. Jimmy Roberts and Doug Harvey played together, too, and the next year we brought in my brother, Billy. Within the last year and a half, Al Arbour died, Jimmy Roberts died, my brother Billy died, and now Noel Picard has died. Doug Harvey and my brother, Barclay, went before them.

I'm the only one left. And that tells me one thing: only the good die young.

      - Bob Plager | Sept. 7, 2017

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