VANCOUVER, B.C. — On Oct. 10, 2002, the St. Louis Cardinals lost Game 2 of the NLCS with Woody Williams on the mound. After a 97-65 regular season, and the deaths of announcer Jack Buck and pitcher Darryl Kile, they then were eliminated by the Giants in five games.
The St. Louis Rams, 0-5 and suffering a severe Super Bowl hangover following their upset loss to New England, were three days away from giving Marc Bulger his first NFL start — against the undefeated Oakland Raiders.
On the hockey front, future NHL first-round draft pick Robert Thomas was 3 years old.
One other thing: on Oct. 10, 2002, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester played in his first NHL game, recording an assist for the Florida Panthers in an overtime loss to Tampa Bay.
Time flies when you’re blocking pucks. Bouwmeester, now 36 and in his 17th NHL season, played in his 1,200th regular-season game Tuesday night, and it didn’t take him long to reach the milestone — he was on for the ice for the opening shift against the Vancouver Canucks.
Dating to the 2012-13 season, he’s played 450 of them for the Blues.
“That’s a lot of games,” Blues goalie Jordan Binnington said.
Could he imagine playing that many?
“I don’t know,” Binnington said. “That’s a lot of practice pucks there. But it’s a great accomplishment for sure. The guys are excited for him.”
Yes they are.
“He’s still in really good shape,” Sammy Blais, 23, said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “When you look at him, he’s just a pro. I try to look up to him a little bit. He’s been around for a long time and he shows by example on the ice. He always works hard.”
Blais, who was 6 when Bouwmeester broke into the NHL, said he remembers watching him when he was a youngster.
“And (now) I’m on the same team as him,” Blais said. “So it’s kind of unreal. Hopefully I play as many games as he does. It’s a lot of games and a lot of blocked shots for him probably.”
Yes, 1,314 of them to be exact entering Tuesday’s contest, or more than one per game.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said. “Especially, too, the way he plays. How hard he plays. You can tell. There’s no secret. The way he takes care of himself. Every day he’s in the gym. He’s always doing something to take care of his body. . . . He’s just a really true professional, and obviously he’s humble, too.”
Humble he is.
“To be able to say you played 1,200, it’s a nice round number,” Bouwmeester said. “So it’s nice. Hopefully, there’s a few more. . . . You realize that the end is a lot closer than the beginning, and you see a lot of guys you played with that aren’t playing anymore. Personally, I still feel pretty good.”
Good enough to be averaging 21 minutes 7 seconds per game, an ice-time figure exceeded only by Alex Pietrangelo (23.43), and Colton Parayko (22:52) among the Blues before Tuesday’s contest.
Because of Bouwmeester’s advanced hockey age, coach Craig Berube says his staff keeps a bit closer tabs on him, than say a younger player.
“A guy like him, just the way he takes care of himself,” Berube said. “And how he works at it on and off the ice. He seems fresh to me and it seems like he’s doing good right now. Not too much concern there yet.”
Bouwmeester is among four active NHL players to appear in 1,200 regular-season games. The others: Patrick Marleau (1,668), Joe Thornton (1,581) and Zdeno Chara (1,500).
Blues scratches Tuesday were forward Robby Fabbri (for the seventh time this season and fourth game in a row), and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (for the ninth time this season and fourth game in a row).
• The Blues are in the midst of another set of back-to-back games. They play Wednesday in Edmonton.
• Binnington, who started Tuesday, had been in Rogers Arena before but only as a backup to Jake Allen when the Blues played there last Dec. 20.