When the Pittsburgh Penguins traveled to St. Louis to play the Blues, they were desperate. It was at the beginning of 1970, and the Penguins didn’t have an easy time going to St. Louis Arena.
In the previous game there, the Pens were shutout, 4-0. Now, they were desperate to make a change, to break the nightmarish trend. And as the saying goes, desperate times calls for desperate measures. So ahead of the game, coach Red Kelly got an idea, and he went off to Kaufmann’s Department before heading to St. Louis.
”One guy got pretty vicious last time,” Kelly said about the game played two months before the game in this game, in the early 70s. He added, “My guys won’t have to hear the hecklers and won’t be disturbed by them.”
But it’s quite hard playing hockey and, at the same time, blocking out noise from a vicious crowd. This was also before helmets were a thing. But the Pens played did play some headgear in that game. Not the one we’re used to seeing, however.
As it turned out, and to the St. Louis crowd’s big surprise, coach Kelly had actually purchased earmuffs for his players. The players didn’t need to wear them, but many still did.
But it didn’t do much help. The Blues scored five goals in the first 14 minutes of the game. A local newspaper had this to say:
“Before the end of the embarrassing first period, there was not a set (earmuffs) in sight.”
The Penguins would lose against the Blues in St. Louis in their five next visits.
In November 1971, they could finally travel home with a victory secured. And that time, nobody wore an earmuff.