Bobby Plager, who was a player, coach and long-time associate with the St. Louis Blues, was killed Wednesday afternoon in a two-vehicle crash on Highway 40 (Interstate 64), reports confirm. He was 78.
The accident reportedly occurred about 1:30 p.m, sending shock waves through the Blues family and his longtime fans. Plager played 11 years and 615 games with the team, and worked for decades more as one of the best-known figures in the organization. Plager was inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
No immediate details of the crash were available, but reports say that Plager, who was driving a Cadillac SUV, was involved in the accident with a woman driving a Dodge minivan on Highway 40 under the Tower Grove Avenue overpass. The woman reportedly suffered injuries.
“He has personally impacted countless Blues fans,” Blues owner Tom Stillman said in a statement. “Most can remember the first time they met Bobby, with a story about the early years and an endless supply of jokes. Fans immediately embrace him and he wholeheartedly returned that embrace. He is the ultimate Blue.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bobby Jr., Melissa and the entire Plager family,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said.
“Truly one of a kind,” said Bernie Federko, another longtime member of the Blues who was Plager’s close friend. “He’s a big reason the St. Louis Blues are such a special franchise to play for. He’s a true Blue who personifies what the Note really means.”
“Number 5 in your program, Number 1 in your hearts” was Plager’s self-proclaimed motto. He came to the Blues from the New York Rangers in 1967 and spent 10 seasons on defense before turning to coaching and scouting. He spent 50-plus seasons with the Blues, the longest continuous tenure of anyone in the organization.
He was universally loved by the hockey-crazed fans who filled the St. Louis Arena in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His no-holds-barred play delighted fans.
Plager, was an original member of the 1967 expansion Blues, went on to play with his brothers, Barclay and Billy, with the team. After retiring in 1978, he joined the Blues’ front office, serving in many capacities, holding titles of vice president, assistant general manager, director of player development and player personnel. He also had a brief stint as head coach of the team in 1992
Plager grew up in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, and joined the Blues as a 21-year-old for their inaugural 1967-68 season. Known affectionately as “Mr. Blue,” he was known for his hip checks and physical style of play. He recorded 20 goals 141 points and 762 penalty minutes in 615 games.
Throughout his association with the Blues, Plager was also known for his humor, constantly telling funny stories and keeping his huge fandom in stitches. He was the unofficial ambassador of the Blues, routinely made appearances in the community as ambassador of the team.
Through the years, the team’s ownership changed several times, but Plager was the one constant that ran through every team, every season. The Blues retired his No. 5 jersey in 2017, and it joined his brother Barclay’s No. 8 in the rafters.