The St. Louis Blues celebrated their first Stanley Cup championship on Wednesday night, and keeping close watch was former Blues player and Greater Trail resident Norm Dennis.
“I think it’s historic,” said Dennis. “Not necessarily because it was the Blues organization but because the fact they were in last place Jan. 3 and won the Stanley Cup is pretty amazing.”
St. Louis beat Boston 4-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, avenging their 1970 Stanley Cup Final loss in four straight to the same Bruins.
“I wasn’t a big part of the team, I was a call up for the most part, although I did play near the end of the season pretty regular, but I’m happy for the old players … and I bet on St. Louis.”
The Aurora, Ont. native came up as a forward in the Montreal organization and played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Junior Canadiens, and toiled five years in their minor league system, before joining St. Louis. He played another five years with the St. Louis organization, much of that time spent in Kansas City with the Blues’ minor-league affiliate.
Dennis, however, was called up on several occasions and saw action in two Stanley Cup finals including the 1970 tilt against Boston. That appearance was also the last time the Blues made it to the final, and one in which Dennis had a front row seat.
“I played the third game but was in the press box (for Game 4) and was directly behind the (Bruins’) goal,” said Dennis. “You couldn’t have a better vantage point.”
Bruins defenceman Bobby Orr scored the famous flying-through-the-air goal that clinched the Stanley Cup in a 4-3 overtime win. Yet, if not for a lucky bounce, the Blues may have been celebrating.
“It’s something that rarely comes up, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen it,” explained Dennis. “I can’t recall which defenceman cleared the puck around the corner, but it was up at the glass level and it hit one of those stanchions and came out 90-degrees from the glass. Bobby Orr had really pinched, and if it hadn’t squirted out, we probably would have had a breakaway.”
The bounces went to Boston on that night, but on Wednesday, the Blues erased 51 years of futility and, after an entertaining back-and-forth series, made it to the promised land. Thanks to incredible goaltending by Jordan Binnington, solid defensive play, and timely offensive execution, St. Louis is celebrating a Stanley Cup championship.
“You go back to Game 6, I thought St. Louis carried the play the first two periods, but they’re down because of two seeing-eye goals.
“It was an unusual series, in that one team would have the momentum and then it would switch and the other team would have the momentum. Both teams played hard throughout but in the end both teams should be proud, no one lost that series really,” added Dennis.
After 15 seasons, the long road and physical game took its toll, and Dennis ended his professional hockey career and moved to Trail in 1975. He became a player/coach with the Smoke Eaters from 1975-78, joined the local Fire Hall and settled in to raise his family.
Although he once donned a Blues’ jersey and was a participant in one of the most iconic moments in sports history, Norm is relatively impartial when it comes to hockey loyalty, enjoying the game for what it was, and what it has become.
“I’m just sort of a hockey fan,” he said. “When I watch a game I don’t necessarily cheer for one team. I’m highly respectful of some players, and I just like studying the game more than I do cheering like a fan.
“To be honest with you, I was respectful of my career but I wanted to be known more than just a hockey player.”