This is Frank St. Marseille. I believe that’s Wayne Merrick (#20) checking him and #16 was probably Pierre Plante. I don’t have a number but I think it’s Steve Durbano (although I’m not sure he wore an “A”) in background which would make this 1973 or 1974. This photo should be of Frank in a Blues uniform, but all I could find were staged shots and this one is so wonderful (the Kings uniform, Frank’s helmet, etc).
Before the 1967 expansion draft, St. Marseille was probably the best player in the IHL. That league would have been behind the AHL, WHL (the old pro league) and the CPHL among minor leagues at that time. I’ve read several references from the era that considered the IHL and EHL semi-pro leagues although the actual quality is unknown.
This is how St. Marseille got to the show. The Douglas Hunter book Scotty Bowman: A Life In Hockey (pages 106 and 107): “Two years earlier (1965), Lynn Patrick (the Blues GM at expansion) had been managing the Los Angeles Blades of the WHL (pro) league when he received a letter from St. Marseille’s brother, a singer in town. The letter extolled the skills of Frank, who was playing for Port Huron of the IHL. Frank’s brother urged Patrick to give him a tryout; Frank would pay his own expenses to Los Angeles and stay with his brother.
Patrick never bothered replying, but then started noticing Frank’s name in the lists of the top IHL scorers (note: probably the Hockey News, who gave weekly coverage of the IHL and EHL). When Patrick was hired to put the Blues together, he decided he should have a look at this playmaking right winger. (Scotty) Bowman scouted him and pronounced him the Gordie Howe of the IHL. When Patrick and Bowman saw him play in the IHL All-Star game, they were disappointed in his performance but decided he still merited attention. Patrick and Bowman took Sid Salomon III on his first scouting trip to see St. Marseille play in Toledo. No NHL team had his rights: he was 28 years old. After the game they got St. Marseille’s signature on an “A” form, which committed both parties to nothing more than St. Marseille coming to the Blues first training camp.
“I thought he was the best player at our training camp,” Patrick would recall. “Scotty and I talked it over and decided that he can’t be as good as he seems to be and we decided to send him to our training camp in Kansas City and see what happens.”
Note: They called him up November 23, 1967 and he played in the show for a decade.
I love hockey stories like that one. Baseball has thousands of stories about pitchers so addled they chased fire engines during their off days, but hockey has never been able to get the attention of enough people to grow the legend of a lounge singer in Los Angeles who wrote a letter and made his brother a star. They can make a movie about a Shark who searches out a specific family across oceans, but they can’t make this one? They could call it “A Saint in the City of Angels.”
I don’t know what to say about tonight’s game. The Blues are coming on strong and the Oilers are still figuring out their depth chart. The Oilers could outplay St. Louis at EVs and still lose because of special teams.
Still, there’s Gagner coming on a little and Ales Hemsky’s last few games are like watching Tim Raines after hitting two line drive outs and being 0-for-12 about 1986. You know it’s coming, it’s just a matter of when.