The St. Louis Blues found the perfect way to highlight Bob Plager’s jersey retirement ceremony.
Knowing how close Bob Plager was to older brother Barclay Plager, who died of cancer in 1988, the Blues found a way to reunite the brothers forever. During the ceremony, Bob Plager’s No. 5 jersey banner was raised halfway, then Barclay Plager’s No. 8 was lowered until it was at the same level.
From there, both jerseys were raised to the rafters together as an emotional Bob Plager and his family watched from a spot near the blue line.
“He was loved by his teammates and feared by everybody else,” Bob Plager said of his older brother during his speech. “He never took a night off. It was not the name on the back (of the jersey), it was the crest on the front.”
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Plager wasn’t sure at first what was happening when he saw his brother’s banner dropping.
“I did get choked up because I didn’t know about the (No.) 5 going halfway up and the No. 8 coming down to meet him and bring him the rest of the way,” Plager said. “I wondered what was happening to the 5, did it stop or did the machine break? Then you see the No. 8 was coming down. I think everybody ... I looked at my family and they all had tears in their eyes.”
They weren’t the only ones.
Paul Stastny scored two goals and the Blues netted three goals in a span of 4:35 during the second period Thursday in a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs to celebrate the debut of new head coach Mike Yeo. The five goals seemed highly appropriate with the Blues retiring Plager’s No. 5 jersey.
During a 64-minute pregame ceremony, Plager’s contributions were highlighted by former teammates, owner Tom Stillman and many others.
Plager, of course, managed to turn his own jersey retirement speech into a tribute to nearly everyone else, thanking as many people as time allowed. An original Blue from the franchise’s first game in 1967, Plager’s career spans 50 years with a franchise that has become almost synonymous with his name.
Former teammate Gary Sabourin was among those in the large, on-ice gathering that included Plager’s son, Robert Plager, daughter Melissa Briggs and family. Barclay Plager’s wife, Helen Plager, and her family were also on hand, as were all the living players whose jerseys have been retired by the Blues, with the exception of Brian Sutter.
The list included Al MacInnis, Brett Hull and Bernie Federko. Bobby Gassoff Jr. represented his father’s retired No. 3. Sutter provided a video tribute.
“For 50 years you’ve been the heartbeat of this franchise,” Federko said. “You were a true Blue that taught us all what the ‘Note’ really means. Bobby, welcome to the club. Congratulations.”
Bob Plager saved special praise for the last two Blues to wear his No. 5.
“No. 5 is going in the rafters with ‘Plager’ on it,” Plager said, “but to me, I’ll be thinking about Barret Jackman and Rob Ramage.”
In typical Plager fashion, he used self-deprecating humor to praise others.
On MacInnis: “His shot was 104 miles an hour, and mine was a delay of game penalty.”
On his own video tribute: “I was really surprised I got to see all four of my goals in the NHL.”