Monday, December 22, 2008

Finally, The Home Opener

After a long, long stretch that I have documented below, the Scouts finally got to play in front of friendly fans; on Saturday, November 2nd, 1974, NHL hockey arrived in Kansas City for the first time. Kemper Arena was barely ready in time. The Scouts didn't get to test the ice or the boards until the day before the game.

Their foes, the Chicago Black Hawks, were intimidating, having gone 41-14-23 the previous year, and led by future hall of famers Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito. Hawks coach Billy Reay said he might have gone with his backup goalie against the Scouts, but started Esposito due to it being the franchise's home opener. Michel Plasse got the nod for the home squad.

14,758 souls showed up, though Kemper could have held 16,200. According to the Star, it was a lively, appreciative crowd. Speeches were made, anthems were sung, and the puck was finally dropped. Ivan Boldirev of the Black Hawks scored the first goal in arena history just 3:06 into the game. Wilf Paiement, in the midst of a six game goal scoring streak, earned the distinction of scoring the first Scouts goal in Kemper Arena. Jay Greenberg described the goal: "Lynn Powis dislodged the puck from J.P. Bordeleau of the Black Hawks along the left boards, and sent it back to Jim McElmury at the point. McElmury put a blast from the left point on Esposito, who saved, but the rebound skidded to Wilf all alone at the right pipe. He fired it into the top of the goal." William D. Tammeus wrote, "...when he scored, why, you would have thought the Royals had won a pennant or the Chiefs a Super Bowl..." Many years later, Bill Grigsby told Joe Posnanski, "You could look in the crowd then, and you would see the excitement and you would think, 'Hey, this is going to work.'"

Unfortunately not. But for that one night, the NHL in Kansas City was looking pretty good. The Scouts outshot the Hawks 35-29, but couldn't pull off a win, and fell 4-3. The crowd cheered them anyway.

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