In most sports, if players physically attack each other, it’s because there is some level of beef between them. But that’s not the case in hockey. Or… I guess… boxing. Or MMA, or karate, or bullfighting, or a number of other sports, fine, but my point is: Hockey has a lot of fights that aren’t beef-based. So when hockey players do have beef, it’s only going to get even uglier. And when two entire hockey teams have beef? Well, as was the case with St. Louis and Chicago, you get a game so violent it becomes known as The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre.
From 1988 to 1993, the Blues and Chicago couldn’t escape each other. They met in five out of six postseasons. While that’d be enough to engender a deep hatred with a savory beef aroma, there’s another wrinkle— coaches and players kept switching from one team to the other.
Blues fired their head coach Jaques Martin in ‘88, and the next year, he was the top assistant in Chicago. Jocelyn Lemieux started his career with the Blues, and by 1990, he was on the Hawks eager to prove himself to his former team. That same year, Chicago left Bob Bassen open on the waiver draft, and the Blues scooped him up.
There was one team switch I didn’t talk about in the episode. Midway through the 1990 season the Blues rather unceremoniously dumped goalie Greg Millen. They essentially told him he wasn’t good enough for their Stanley Cup aspirations, trading him to the worst team in the league, the Quebec Nordiques. Millen was so upset that he didn’t report to Quebec for over a week after the trade. He even threatened to take legal action against the Blues, claiming they had a verbal agreement that he’d be consulted before any trades.
He didn’t go through with the legal action, which is probably for the best because verbal agreements rarely hold up in court (Judge Judy taught me that).
Lucky for Millen, his time with the Nordiques was short lived. About a month later, they traded him to Chicago, in time for the Norris division finals match-up with the Blues. But Millen never got a chance to get revenge on his former employer because he barely played in the series. Young Hawks goalie Ed Belfour was beginning to make a name for himself, and the smart move was to keep Belfour on the ice.
While that subplot fizzled, don’t worry — there were plenty of others that soared. Please enjoy this episode of BH (Beef History).