Longtime St. Louis Blues defenseman Bob Plager passed away on Wednesday at the age of 78 due to injuries sustained in a car accident. Plager played 14 seasons in the NHL, from 1964 to 1978, including 11 years with the Blues after beginning his career with the New York Rangers. Though undersized for a defenseman at that time, especially one that focused primarily on the defensive aspects of the game, Plager was no pushover. His reputation on the ice was built on his physicality and smart defensive play, which made him a difficult match-up. Plager channeled his passionate and intelligent playing ability into a career beyond his playing days, serving as a scout, coach, and top executive. Plager’s reputation off the ice was one of kindness and humor.
Plager will always be remembered more for his connection to the Blues and to the city of St. Louis than for any one thing he did on or off the ice with the team. A member of the inaugural St. Louis Blues of 1967, Plager was the longest-serving member of that original roster. When he retired from playing, he jumped immediately into serving the club in other ways. Quite literally, too; Plager went from playing with the Blues and their CHL affiliate, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, to coaching the Golden Eagles all over the course of one season. He then spent the next six years as a scout for St. Louis, three years as Assistant General Manager, and five years as Director of Player Development. He also had stints as head coach of the Blues and their IHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen, mixed in as well. Plager retired from hockey in 2000, having spent a combined 33 years in the service of the Blues. However, he very much remained involved with the team as an iconic alumnus.
The response to Plager’s passing has come from all corners of the hockey world. Tom Timmerman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch collected comments from names such as former Blues coach Scotty Bowman, Blues owner Tom Stillman, a fellow Blues honoree in Bernie Federko, and current Blues GM Doug Armstrong in a detailed story on the life of a legend. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also released a statement on Plager’s passing. Even Ben Bishop, goaltender for the rival Dallas Stars but also a St. Louis native, shared his memories of a man that meant so much to he and others who grew up in the city.
All of us at PHR send our condolences to the family and friends of Bob Plager and the hockey community of St. Louis.