William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past seven years. Douglas joined NHL.com in March and will be writing about people of color in the game. Today, he talks to alumni from the Stanley Cup Final participants, the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins.
Grant Fuhr has five Stanley Cup rings from his glory years with the Edmonton Oilers but he's proudly bleeding St. Louis blue in the Stanley Cup Final.
And the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie, who played four seasons with the Blues, thinks rookie goalie Jordan Binnington can be the difference for St. Louis against the Boston Bruins in the best-of-7 Final, which starts Monday (8 p.m.; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blues series coverage]
Fuhr believes Binnington, who is 12-7 with a 2.37 goals-against average in the playoffs, has the mental makeup to lead the Blues to their first championship.
"I see a kid that's playing with a ton of confidence," Fuhr said. "He makes their team play a different style because he looks like he's relaxed and calm so if frees them up to play whichever way they want. He gives them confidence they didn't have before.
"I'm excited for them, that's a city that deserves it. It has a diehard fanbase, so I think it's just a reward for them that will take hockey over the top there."
Video: Binnington joins an elite group of NHL goaltenders
Fuhr was a Vezina Trophy winner and a key contributor to the Oilers' five Stanley Cup championships between 1984 and 1990. Fuhr became the first black player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
He fondly recalls his four seasons in St. Louis (1995-96 to 1998-99), which followed unproductive stints with the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings.
Fuhr revived his career in St. Louis and rebuilt his broken-down body under the tutelage of Bob Kersee, a world-class track coach and husband of U.S. Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Fuhr played in 79 games, 76 in a row, for the 1995-96 Blues, both NHL records.
Video: Grant Fuhr first black player in Hall of Fame
"I spent a lot of time with Bobby and Jackie. It was fun to work out with them to see what other athletes do," Fuhr said. "I knew I was reasonably athletic but didn't know what a really good athlete was. Training with them just took it to another level."
He thinks of the Cup that could have been for a 1996 Blues roster that featured forwards Brett Hull and Wayne Gretzky and defensemen Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger had he not torn his ACL and MCL in his left knee in a crease collision with Maple Leafs forward Nick Kypreos in Game 2 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blues managed to defeat the Maple Leafs in six games then lost in the next round to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.
"I know we left a [Stanley Cup] ring on the table there the year I wrecked my knee," he said. "The year I wrecked my knee -- that was a team that was good enough to win, we had all the parts."
Fuhr is not the only player of color rooting for his old team.
"It's great and fitting that it comes down to St. Louis and Boston playing each other for the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years," said Tony McKegney, a left wing who scored an NHL career-high 78 points (40 goals, 38 assists) for the Blues in 1987-88. "It's ironic and its great theater."
Graeme Townshend, a left wing who became the NHL's first player born in Jamaica when he joined Boston in 1989-90, credits Bruins veterans like captain Zdeno Chara and general manager Don Sweeney for passing on the team's culture in the younger players like defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Connor Clifton.
"I think they've done a phenomenal job picking the right guys to fit into the Bruins culture," said Townshend, a Maine resident who'll attend Game 2 in the Bruins alumni box on Wednesday. "Boston is a hard-hat, lunch-pail city. You could be working at the Prudential Center trading stock but grew up in South Boston, you may have gone to Harvard but you come from the 'hood. Boston is a blue-collar town and the team plays the way the people in that city live and were raised."
Darren Banks appeared in 20 games as a forward for the Bruins from 1992-94.
"From the first round, I picked them to win the Stanley Cup and so far they haven't let me down," he said. "They play like they've been in the Stanley Cup Final before," he said. "They play like veterans, some of these younger kids."
Listen: Stanley Cup Final preview episode of NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast