The Canadiens host the St. Louis tonight, in one of the ever too rare cross conference games. Often when the two teams meet, I think back to all the players who have shared both jerseys over the years.
The Blues were once a sort of Montreal Canadiens Annex, thanks in no small part to Scotty Bowman, who coached the team in their first three seasons starting in 1967 and brought over many players he had known through his years as a scout and coach in the Montreal system in the 1960's.
When the NHL expanded by six teams that year, the Blues, on Bowman's advice, picked apart the Canadiens minor league teams and built a fairly solid roster very quickly. Bowman knew his stuff, and the Blues made three straight trips to the Stanley Cup final.
With a team solidified with former Habs, the Blues lost to the Canadiens in 1968 and 1969. The following year, St. Louis fell to the heavily favoured Bruins in four games. In fact, when Bobby Orr scored the Cup winner flying through the air, it was a former Hab - Noel Picard - who tripped him!
Early Blues history has the Canadiens written all over them. The Plager brothers, Barclay and Bill, who became legends in St. Louis, were once coached by Bowman in junior when they played for the Canadiens sponsored Peterborough (T.P.T.'s) Petes. Bowman lured some great names from the Canadiens past to play for the Blues during those years, including Jacques Plante, Doug Harvey, Ted Harris, Jean Guy Talbot, and Dickie Moore.
Small wonder the Blues contended so quickly!
The trouble was, and perhaps as Canadiens fans, it was a good thing, is that Bowman had a penchent for wanting to run the show. Blues then GM Lynn Patrick understood Bowman's vision, but team owner Sid Salomon III did not. Salomon enjoyed a close relationship with his players, and in return, players adored going to St. Louis, where they were in turn royally treated. This closeness went totally against Bowman's tactical methods and ploys for getting the best out of his fringe player troops.
In time, the longer the Bowman tenure endured, the more it became apparent that the two diverse philosophies would combust. During the 1970-71 campaign, Bowman was cut loose from the Blues organization, poised to make a return to Montreal where he would inherit a Stanley Cup winning team later that year.
70 since '67
Since 1967, seventy players have worn both the bluenote and the CH. If you are a longtime fan of the game, you will surely recognize a bunch from the Blue glory years from 1967 to 1970. Here's an alphabetical listing of all players who have appeared in at least one game for both club:
Don Awrey, Murray Baron, Normand Baron, Red Berenson, Bob Berry, Christian Bordeleau, Andre Boudrias, Valeri Bure, Jim Campbell, Guy Carbonneau, Shayne Corson, Bill Collins, Wayne Connelly, J.J. Daigneault, Gilbert Delorme, Aaron Downy, Rory Fitzpatrick, Ron Flockhart, Dave Gardner, Doug Gilmour, Gaston Gingras, Phil Goyette, Ted Harris, Doug Harvey, Sean Hill, Fran Huck, Pat Hughes, Mark Hunter, Mike Johnson, Mike Keane, Christian Laflamme, Mike Lalor, Guy Lapointe, Michel Larocque, Claude Larose, Gary Leeman, Chuck Lefley, Jocelyn Lemieux, Bill McCreary, Rick Meagher, Glen Metropolit, Sergio Momesso, Jim Montgomery, Dickie Moore, Phil Myre, Ric Natress, Greg Paslawski, Noel Picard, Jacques Plante, Michel Plasse, Stephane Quintal, Rob Ramage, Stephane Richer, Vincent Riendeau, Phil Roberto, Jimmy Roberts, Bill Root, Martin Rucinski, Glen Sather, Brian Savage, Bill Sutherland, Jean Guy Talbot, Larry Trader, Pierre Turgeon, Perry Turnbull, Ernie Wakely, Rick Wamsley, Eric Weinrich, Doug Wickenheiser, and Rick Wilson.
Additionally, several Habs prospects, such as goalie Ted Ouimet, and prospect Andre " Moose" Dupont, also got their NHL careers rolling in St. Louis, after toilling in the Habs system for years.
In 41 years of games between the Blues and Canadiens, the Habs have owned them big time. The teams have met 119 times, with the Canadiens holding a record of 71-25-22, with one overtime loss. Here's hoping the domination continues tonight. The Blues owe us!