ST. LOUIS - Fifty years ago today, the city of St. Louis was awarded an NHL franchise.
The club didn't have an owner, mind you - but nonetheless, the city was awarded a team.
NHL President Clarence Campbell said the League wanted a club in St. Louis because of its geographical location but needed a suitable owner to step up with $2 million to secure the team before April 5, 1966.
On that day, insurance executives Sid Salomon Jr. and his son, Sid Salomon III, stepped up in a big way. After putting up the initial $2 million fee to the League, the Salomons immediately purchased the St. Louis Arena for $4 million from Chicago businessman Bill Wirtz and spent $2.5 million more to renovate and expand the 14,200-seat facility on Oakland Avenue to accommodate 18,000 fans.
Bob Plager, Barclay Plager, Al Arbour and Glenn Hall were the among the names that led the franchise in its early seasons. After being introduced to the Blues in 1967, the city supported the team in droves, packing The Arena to capacity in seven consecutive seasons.
It didn't hurt that the Blues reached the Stanley Cup Finals in each of its first three seasons.
"It was the place to be," Bob Plager said of hockey's beginning in St. Louis. "People dressed up in suits. For people in St. Louis, this was their team. It was a family. The fans were there every game, you waved at them, they sang - and when you lost a game, it was 'we' lost the game and if you won the game, it was 'we' won the game. The Salomons made it a family."
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise being awarded to St. Louis, the Blues will hold a ceremonial puck drop before tonight's game vs. Winnipeg featuring Bob Plager and an original season ticket holder from the 1967-68 inaugural season.
The Blues will celebrate the 50th anniversary season in 2016-17 with Opening Night festivities that honor the players and fans that made the inaugural season special, along with special moments throughout the season that pay homage to the growth and history of the franchise.