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Stanley Cup Final

Hall, first Blues player, thrilled with their Stanley Cup championship

Legendary Mr. Goalie, selected in 1967 Expansion Draft, remains loyal to St. Louis

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

BOSTON -- Glenn Hall is bursting with pride about the St. Louis Blues' first Stanley Cup championship, their 4-1 Game 7 victory against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday coming 52 years after he was the first player selected by the club in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft.

"I'll be honest, I turned in when the score was 2-0," Hall said Thursday. "I knew that lead wasn't safe, but my watching it wasn't going to change anything. I was so happy this morning to see the score and the highlights on the news.

"This is so very good for everyone in St. Louis. It wasn't easy, but then it's not supposed to be. It's not as much fun if it's easy. I'm very, very happy for everyone involved -- the ownership, management, the coaches, players and especially the fans."

Dubbed Mr. Goalie, Hall's NHL career spanned 1952-71 and included a Stanley Cup championship in 1961 with the Chicago Black Hawks (then two words); two Vezina Trophy wins with Chicago, then one more with the Blues; 13 All-Star Game appearances; and a streak that will never be broken: 502 consecutive games played, 552 including the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- all without a mask -- from 1955 with the Detroit Red Wings through 1963 with Chicago.

 

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Lured out of retirement to play his final four seasons with St. Louis from 1967-71, Hall is beyond thrilled today with their historic championship. And there is no former Blues player with deeper roots in the organization, having become the first player in their history on June 6, 1967.

A year earlier, he had retired -- or so he thought.

Glenn Hall with former Blackhawks general manager Tommy Ivan

 

"At the end of the 1965-66 season, I told (Chicago general manager) Tommy Ivan, 'I think I've had enough,'" Hall said. "I didn't know expansion was coming, I didn't even know what expansion was. I retired. Then I got a letter in the mail during the summer telling me when training camp was starting.

"Now it's the fall of 1966, the last year of the Original Six era, and Chicago gives me a big raise to get me out of retirement, from $25,000 to about $40,000. I missed 20 or 30 games sitting out the start of the season, but they said they'd pay me the whole salary anyway. Holy crow. But I think what the Black Hawks really needed was a goalie to leave unprotected in the expansion draft."

Chicago finished 17 points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1966-67 regular season, Hall and stablemate Denis DeJordy sharing the Vezina Trophy for their first-place team. But the Black Hawks were bounced by the Toronto Maple Leafs in a six-game semifinal, going on to win their most recent championship.

Hall was left unprotected by Chicago for a Montreal hotel ballroom draft that began with the six new teams selecting goalies. After the Los Angeles Kings chose Terry Sawchuk and the Philadelphia Flyers drafted Bernie Parent, the Blues selected Hall, then 35, who again considered himself retired. In fact, Hall doesn't even recall where he was when the Blues plucked him from Chicago.

Sid Salomon III, the Blues' executive vice president, and Lynn Patrick, their coach and general manager, flew up to Edmonton to make their pitch. By then, Hall and his wife, Pauline, had bought their farm in Stony Plain, Alberta, one that featured a house too small to comfortably accommodate a family of six.

"I still figured I was retired, then all of a sudden they come out here and talk money," Hall recalled. "It was money I had never seen. We were broke. We had nothing, eh? So, we sat in a car outside my home and they asked how much I wanted to play.

"I told them $50,000, which was a huge amount in those days. They just whistled. I asked how much they were prepared to pay me, and they said $45,000. And I whistled. 'Why don't we just split the difference?' I told them, and we did."

The draft had been called a rummage sale by some who suggested it was a sorry collection of veterans with very few miles left on their tires and youngsters who were available because their teams felt they'd never amount to anything.

"As a team, we said, 'Let's prove to them that we can still play,'" Hall said. "It gave you the incentive to play well. Defenseman Noel Picard -- he's the one tripping Bobby Orr in the famous 1970 overtime goal [in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final] photo -- used to tell guys before games, 'This is the team that doesn't want you!'"

The Blues wobbled out of the gate their first season, 4-10-2 when Patrick stepped away from coaching to focus on his GM duties and put rookie coach Scotty Bowman behind the bench. Bowman led the West Division Blues to the Stanley Cup Final three consecutive years, swept each time by the powerful East champion -- Montreal in 1968 and 1969, then Boston in 1970.

"You knew we had a winner in Scotty, I loved him," Hall said of Bowman. "He didn't treat everybody the same. If you needed a kick to play well, he'd kick you. If you needed a hand on the shoulder, that's what you'd get. Scotty was smart enough to know we weren't going to score a bunch of goals, so we had to keep the puck out of our own net and win the 2-1 games."

Hall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the 1968 postseason, the Canadiens having won all four games by a single goal, two in overtime. The trophy was presented to him before a Blues home game the following season by broadcaster Dan Kelly and Smythe, the former Maple Leafs owner. The announcement of his winning was made a couple days after the series finale.

On Wednesday, forward Ryan O'Reilly became the Blues' second Conn Smythe winner, the trophy presented to him on TD Garden ice by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Whether Hall would be back for a second year in St. Louis was anyone's guess, so Bowman came north and convinced the veteran to return. Hall and fellow goalie legend Jacques Plante would share the Vezina Trophy in 1968-69, yet again he wasn't sure about returning for more, by now viewing hockey only as a gruelling job.

The Blues saw the need for their reluctant star, especially when he returned to St. Louis for the Vezina presentation with Plante, made by then-NHL vice-president Brian O'Neill. Fans chanting his name practically lifted the roof off the arena.

Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante with Vezina Trophy

 

"We'll sign you for two years and you can use the money to build the house you need on your farm," Salomon told Hall.

And so, the goalie returned for two seasons to finish his storied career, this contract not signed in a car parked in front of his home. Hall began work on the farmhouse a couple of months after Orr's iconic 1970 goal, the foundation poured atop a long winding driveway up from the small original white house that today is used for storage.

The St. Louis experience was a delight for the Hall family, which quickly grew to love the city. Hall and his wife, Pauline, looked for property on which to settle when he finally did retire. Ultimately, they chose to remain in Stony Plain where Hall lives to this day, having lost Pauline 10 years ago this month, her ashes buried beside a small tree on the sprawling land.

"They had to give tickets away in St. Louis at the start," he said. "We had maybe 5,000 at the first games. But as we started to play well and win a few games, and people who were given the tickets enjoyed what they were watching. Crowds picked up and the fans were always great. We were a half a goal ahead simply because of them."

On Wednesday, Blues fans jammed Enterprise Center and overflowed into Busch Stadium to watch on giant screens as their team won its first championship. They soon will choke city streets for a Stanley Cup parade, one that's been a half-century in the making.

In the den of his farmhouse that his final Blues contract made possible, wearing a Stanley Cup Final cap the team sent out to him, Hall, 87, watched at least a part of historic Game 7 with soaring pride, having been a part of the Blues fabric since before they had played their first game.

"I loved everything about being part of that team," he said. "Scotty and Lynn Patrick and the Solomon family were so good to all of us. We repaid them with our effort. If the fans weren't there in big numbers at the start, they grew to enjoy the product, and now look at them. They must be so happy in St. Louis today. The celebrations will be something special, and they'll do it right."

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