Every now and then, I find myself sharing a story with my kids about the St. Louis Blues. In my bedroom, I have a pair of hockey gloves from Robby Fabbri that we purchased at a Blues equipment sale. One of my kids has a hockey puck signed by Vladimir Tarasenko. In the corner of our living room, I have an old hockey stick from Wayne Babych.
We were talking about the Blues the other day when I mentioned one of my favorite lines from the Blues back in the day, the 1975-76 season to be exact. The line was called the Sunshine Boys, and the players included Derek Sanderson at center, Chuck Lefley on left wing and Claude Larose on right wing. Years ago, I had a Larose hockey stick.
After a little research, I realize they weren’t together that long. In fact, they were only together that one season but they had an incredible year. Sanderson had 24 goals and 43 assists. Lefley, had a career year in both categories, with 43 goals and 42 assists. Of the three, Larose had the fewest points with 13 goals and 25 assists.
Sanderson, Lefley, Larose and the Cup
Of the three, Sanderson was the most well known, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year with the Boston Bruins as a defensive specialist during the 1966-67 season. It was the year after Bobby Orr won it. Two years later, the two teamed up on one of the most famous goals that Bobby Orr ever scored, the overtime goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final from 1970 versus the Blues. They won the Cup again in 1972.
Chuck Lefley had the best season of the three. Before joining the Blues, he spent four years in Montreal with the Canadiens, getting his name on the Cup after the 1972-73 season. Nearly doubling his previous best, his 43 goals in 1975-76 was a Blues record, later broken by the gentleman whose stick I have, Wayne Babych when he scored 54 during the 1980-81 season. Lefley’s 42 assists were a career-high.
St. Louis was Larose’s last stop. He, like Lefley, came from the Canadiens where he won five Cups in ten seasons, with a stop in between with the Minnesota North Stars for two years.
Larose was known for both his scoring and toughness, but he could also create chemistry. One of his greatest assists that season is a memory I’ve always cherished. He carried the puck down the right side of the rink, took a shot, but instead of putting it on goal he shot it off the boards behind the net where it came out to Lefley, I believe, who hammered it home.
It’s a play I can still see in my head. It’s partly why, when I had the chance as a kid to buy a former Blues’ hockey stick at our local sporting goods store, I bought his. He was the least flashy of the three, but definitely my favorite.
Hockey Town St. Louis
For many people, St. Louis is a baseball town and always will be. For some, however, it is also a hockey town. Blues fans are die-hard. I don’t know many cities where the fans follow their team despite being disappointed year after year, as they always found new ways to lose.
The Blues started pretty well. In each of their first three seasons, they reached the Stanley Cup Final and lost. They lost the first two to the Canadiens, who have won a league-leading 24 Cups, and the last to the Boston Bruins. It was fitting that they beat the Bruins in Game 7 of the Final last season for their first championship.
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Still, those early years were great. It was when my brother started playing hockey and when our family first had partial season tickets. Watching lines like the Sunshine Boys are what made me a fan for life and one of many reasons why I watch today, and why I took my kids to the Stanley Cup parade last year. Players like Sanderson, Lefley and Larose were just three of many and one of the many lines in the Blues’ 53 years who made their mark in St. Louis.