Talking to Blues legend Bobby Plager was an experience every time



When I got out of my car, the initial goal was to see if Jon Hamm was at OB Clark’s. He had mentioned to a colleague that we could be related, so that had to be investigated. By the time I left the bar, the best conversation I had was with another St. Louis legend: Bobby Plager. 

The first thing I did was make my way through the crowd in the bar and dining area. There were at least 200 people at that place on a spring night two years ago. The Blues had just vanquished the Dallas Stars in a Game 7 double-overtime thriller, with hometown hero Pat Maroon scoring the winner. All you heard that night was happiness and cheering. The honeymoon before the 2020 storm of all kinds. By the time I made it to the patio, I had had two beers, saw and spoke with two friends, and could see the real party area. 

Peeking through the door, I spotted Plager sitting at a table right off the deck. He was calm and collected while smiling ear-to-ear. Kelly Chase and Keith Tkachuk — two former players who looked like a steel trap next to each other — were already talking to him and since that’s not a wall I want to try and run through, patience was the game. I located Hamm and head coach Craig Berube nearby, and shook their hands. Meeting and shaking the “Mad Men” star’s hand, posing for a pic, and talking about possibly being related lasted a total of 60 seconds. Plager spent that answering your first question. 

“How are you, Bobby?”

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“Oh, you know, just happy the boys got it done. Those Stars were tough, but we’re tougher. Now, on to San Jose.” 

Calling him by his first name was common practice, by the way. Whether it was at his bar, on the first level at the Enterprise Center or at an airport, Bobby Plager treated everyone like a friend. An instant ally who took the time to speak to him, so he followed suit. Our conversation lasted around five minutes, but I would stop and say farewell before I hopped back into my car for an Uber shift.

Meeting Hamm was nice, but the experience with Mr. Blue took the cake. He made every interaction special instead of a timed visit. Every answer he ever gave me started with a go lucky type entry phrase, like “oh well” or “aw shucks.” He always felt lucky to be where he was at that particular moment. The true ambassador of this town, Plager never turned down a conversation, picture pose, smile, or just a nice word from anyone during his 78 years on this planet. If you greeted him, he greeted you back. But right when you think that’s it, he would start a conversation. It was never quick or rushed with him. 

Plager passed away suddenly in a two-car accident on Interstate 64 Wednesday afternoon. There was a rumor that at the time of the accident, he was headed down for Barclay’s graduation ceremony, the team dog named after his late brother. One could say Plager went out in the heart of a city he loved, heading towards an area of town that he lived, loved, and made his own. As Bernie Miklasz said yesterday, St. Louis truly is Bobby’s Place. 

Back in the late 60’s, opposing hockey players preferred not to be anywhere near Plager’s place on ice. Known as a ruthless defenseman who could beat up your toughest player and send the second-toughest flying skate first into the air with his patented hip check, he played 615 games with the Blues. After retiring, he simply never left, joining the organization’s front office. According to Plager, he held numerous titles with the team but never got a raise, something he was fine with. 

All he wanted to be close to the team he loved and a city he adored. That love never ran low or got tired, all the way down to the final drive he took. He had just passed Kingshighway Boulevard when the accident occurred, which means there’s a good chance his eyes were looking straight down at the Arch and that pretty skyline. If that’s my final image, I’ll rest easy. 

Bobby Plager may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten. What athletes do on the ice pales in comparison to the moments they share with fans off the playing surface. That’s where he became a legend. Mr. Blue gave me the time of day that night, and he didn’t have to. A handshake and smile would have sufficed. But he gave me his time and treated me like a friend. 

I don’t think anyone in this town had more friends than Plager. Rest easy, #5.