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Evan Weiner | correspondent
Dec 23, 2006, 12:00 PM EST

On Dec. 5, the St. Louis Blues bestowed the greatest honor a team can give any of its players (and other personnel) by retiring Brett Hull's number. Hull's number 16 joins a host of other honored Blues numbers, including the No. 8 worn by Barclay Plager. Hull was the greatest goal scorer in St. Louis Blues history, but he wasn't the heart and soul of the organization.

That distinction belongs to Plager and maybe his brother Bob or both. Bob Plager's No. 5 has been honored by the Blues.

The Plagers were instrumental in helping the Blues reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1968 and 1969 where the team was beaten by Montreal and in 1970 when the Blues lost to the Boston Bruins. The Plagers were solid defensemen for years, Barclay was the Blues' captain and also coached the team, while Bob had held many jobs in his post-playing career as part of the team's front office. Barclay was a member of the Blues organization until his death from brain cancer in 1989.

They were tough, hard-nosed players who first caught the attention of people in the Ontario Hockey Association as teenagers. Barclay ended up playing for the Peterborough Petes, while younger brother Bob signed on with the Guelph Royals. Both would stand up for their teammates and the two brothers got involved in a memorable brawl right before Christmas 1960 after Barclay hit Bob in the mouth and Bob went right after his older brother.

"I would say that was the first time we were in a fight on the ice, we fought a lot at home, but that was the first time we had a fight on ice," Bob Plager recalled many years later. "It was a pretty good fight because we fought out on the ice, fought in the penalty box and then we got thrown out of the game and we fought in the runway after.

"I also say, I came out on top, I won it, the first time I beat him up, I think," he said with a smile.

There is a rule generally applied to siblings who fight, don't get in between them because they might turn on the peacemaker. The OHA officials watching over the game were not all that quick to break the brothers up because the two might have turned on them. So the Plager Brothers battled and battled just like they were back home in Kirkland Lake, Ontario.

"Well, its funny the way it started, after it was all over, Barc said it was an accident. You know his stick came up and caught me across the face and I ended up getting my lip cut. I didn't think it was an accident, so that started the fight and the fight was going on on the ice and one of our players, Al LeBrun, jumped in there to break it up and the referee came over and grabbed LeBrun and said just get out of there," said Plager with a laugh.

"LeBrun said they are brothers and the referee said 'that's right get away, they probably will both turn on you.'"

The officials did get the fight stopped and the Plagers started to skate to their respective penalty boxes, but they weren't done yet.

"The penalty boxes were right together," Bob explained. "We skated over there, after the fight on the ice, we were going in and Barc just pushed and I wasn't a clean fighter either, that's why I think I won the fight, because I got the first punch in on the ice and then when he pushed me in the penalty box, I just turned around and punched again and got a pretty good one on the side of the head. We went again and now they threw us out of the game.

"Of course, I knew Barc was going to be coming after me and everybody was yelling, I think his back might have been turned again and I gave him another good shot."

The linesmen got between the brothers and escorted them off the ice. The player entrances were on opposite ends of the rink, but that didn't stop the brothers who were extremely unhappy with each other.

"I can hear him coming down the hall, I was waiting for him, I can hear him coming," Plager said with a smile. "We didn't throw too many punches there, we had the trainers there from both teams. We probably had a little grin on our faces."

The brothers became buddies again, but their teammates didn't know that it was just a sibling battle and there was some drama in Peterborough after the game.

"The funny thing is that we were in Peterborough and we were taking the bus back to Guelph after and there was a little restaurant across the road from the rink where the players go in after the game. Of course, I was going to make sure I showed up there, I didn't want to hide in the back of the bus, so I went into the restaurant knowing that Barc would be in there," said Bob Plager.

"When Barc came into the restaurant, he just waved and we went to the back part of the restaurant and I think both teams thought we were going in there to fight because they all come running into the restaurant."

But the brothers didn't fight and in fact Barc needed to talk to Bob about something else entirely.


"What it was, it was around Christmas time and Barc was a little short of money. He wanted to borrow some money," Plager said of his brother. "He said what happens on the ice, that was on the ice. It was all forgotten pretty soon."

Bob Plager advanced his brother 10 bucks. "We were just in juniors, it was a lot of money in those days."

The Plagers had a few more battles in the Central Hockey League when Barclay played for Omaha and Bob was a New York Rangers farmhand with St. Paul.

"It was just two players getting into a fight, he went in to help his guy or got in and I had to jump in or it was vice versa. I was in it and he had to jump in to break it up. I think on the ice, we respected ... I don't think we gave it our best punches when we threw them, I think we held back a little. We got into a few," he recalled.

But it was nothing like the Christmas time Peterborough Plager Brothers main event.

"That was pretty serious because it was the first time, I got the best, but you know when you fight scared you are a little stronger and I think I was fighting scared that night," said Bob, the middle of the three Plager Brothers.

Bill Plager also played with Peterborough but he was a number of years younger than his siblings and missed playing with them in the OHA. Bill turned pro in 1966-67 with the Central Hockey League's Houston Apollos and ended up with the Minnesota North Stars in 1967-68. The Blues traded for Bob in June 1967 in a deal with the New York Rangers and acquired Barclay in a trade with the Rangers in November of that year. The Plager Brothers would meet head on in the 1968 Western Division Finals.

"Billy was involved with a few. In fact it was the first year (for the Blues) of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we played Minnesota, the first year of the expansion. Billy was playing very well, he put a couple of players out with body checks, he was running and hitting. We had to do something to slow him down.

"I know Barc had run into him once and Billy threw an elbow and turned around, but Barc wouldn't fight him," said Plager sounding a bit disappointed. "I said well somebody has to straighten him out, somebody has to go. So I know the next shift, it was the sixth game. He chased me in the corner, I knew he was going to run me, I ducked, he went over and when he was getting up, I grabbed him and we fought. I didn't bother me to fight my brothers.

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