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Barret Jackman honored at a retirement ceremony

Former Blues player and broadcaster Kelly Chase (left) attends the retirement announcement for Blues defenseman Barret Jackman on Oct. 4, 2016, at Scottrade Center. Standing next to Chase is hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Kelly Chase, whose popularity among Blues fans moved from the ice to the radio booth, is giving up his broadcasting duties.

“It’s tough for me to say I don’t want to broadcast games anymore, but this decision is mine and it’s time for a change,” Chase said in a story posted Monday on the team’s website, stlouisblues.com.

Chase, 50, will become involved in private real estate and will remain connected to the team via a role in business and community development.

“(Former Blue) Garth Butcher was a guy I respected a great deal. He said to me at the end of his career that he knew he could play longer, but that it was someone else’s turn. ... I think that’s where I’m at,” Chase said, according to the website. “It’s someone else’s turn.”

Chase and play-by-play announcer Chris Kerber entered the booth for the 2000-01 season, the year after Chase’s playing career ended and Kerber came up from the minors for his first NHL job.

Chase scored with his no-holding-back approach on the air, calling things as he saw them. He wasn’t afraid to criticize the Blues.

For instance, after they beat Minnesota in overtime of a playoff series opener in 2017, he wasn’t praising the team’s victory. In fact, he ripped the Blues, as they were outshot by a 2-1 margin and only goalie Jake Allen’s standout performance prevented them from being blown out.

“Their effort is going to have to be much better to win this series,” Chase flatly said. “... The St. Louis Blues tonight weren’t good enough to win a series. They weren’t skating tonight. There was no energy, there was no movement on puck pursuit. There was no hounding the puck, no turning pucks back and then guys driving ... and putting pucks on net.

“The shots indicated the play of the game, it was 52-26 and deservedly so. The St. Louis Blues, all they had to do was hang around because of the play of Jake Allen. But that doesn’t win you a series.”

Kerber said some nice things about the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko, who fed the puck to Joel Edmundson for the winning goal. But Chase wasn’t appeased.

“The truth is that line has got to be better and create more chances,” Chase said.

The team apparently heeded Chase’s criticisms — it won the series in five games.

He was working for the listeners, far from toeing the company line.

“He’s not afraid to say what he thinks,” Kerber told the Post-Dispatch. “But he always was fair. In 18 years together, in my opinion, he never was unfair or over the top — shock-jockish — about any player on the air.”

Chase couldn’t be reached for comment but expressed his appreciation in a tweet.

“With all of gratitude in the world I thank the St. Louis Blues for allowing me to be part of them for 30 years,” he tweeted. “Thanks to the fans for allowing me on your radio 82 times a year. I hope the next chapter is just as much fun. FYI — you still have the best player on the team,” apparently referring to Kerber.

Kerber said a lot of factors meshed for Chase in his decision.

“Timing and opportunity, personal needs and wants,” he said. “I really think it was a crossroads hitting at the same time.”

Chase sounds ready for a transition.

“I’ll be able to sit down and watch a game or sit with a sponsor or client or someone that’s been part of our community and talk with them on a different level,” Chase told the Blues’ website. “It’s going to be a huge change for me. I’ve never sat down and watched the game with the fans. I’m going to get their perspective on things and help make it a better experience for them. And I’ve never sat down and watched a game with my sons, who are ages 19, 17 and 15. I’m finally going to get to do that now.

“I’ve always wanted to be part of the St. Louis Blues and I’m grateful I have a chance in a different role that won’t consume as much of my time as broadcasting did. I have absolutely wonderful kids and a great wife who has been very patient with my job. It’s going to be a change for everybody and I’m expecting it will be positive.”

A replacement for Chase is expected to be announced in the next month. The games are carried primarily on KMOX (1120 AM), with a few on KYKY (98.1 FM). The team pays those stations to carry the broadcasts, which the club controls.

“I’m sure we’ll have some conversations with the Blues, but I can’t imagine them (wanting to hire) somebody we’d object to,” KMOX program director Steve Moore said. “We look forward to talking with them.”

And Moore expects Chase to continue to be sought after by his station, and others in town, to give his perspective on the Blues.

“I don’t see him going away, just his role changing,” he said.

And, in a nod to just how candid Chase was on game broadcasts, Moore said he “can’t imagine he’ll be any more outspoken” even though Chase won’t be as visible with the team. “He’s a pro ... colorful and honest. Those things make great radio.”

Kerber also expects Chase to continue to be in the spotlight occasionally.

“He a great fit for the St. Louis Blues and we’re going to continue to use him,” said Kerber, who in addition to calling games is the team’s vice president of broadcast and content development. “He has an opportunity that allows him — not just as an ambassador — he can have as big an impact on the franchise as he has had in any of his roles.”

But Kerber will miss his longtime partner.

“We let each other be ourselves,” he said. “Kelly Chase could talk about and present the game in a way that you don’t have to know anything about hockey and still be entertained.”

Chase was a battler on the ice, on which he was a forward who primarily played for the Blues and Hartford Whalers, and has been off it, too. He amassed more than 200 penalty minutes in six seasons and just over 2,000 in his career, then after his playing days ended he gutted his way through the 2008-09 campaign while dealing with occasional severe headaches that he said “can be debilitating” related to a brain lesion.

Through it all he has given much to the community including his deep involvement with the Gateway Locomotives Hockey Association, said to be the first organized ice hockey program in the United States for people with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism.

Chase won the King Clancy Trophy, presented “to the (NHL) player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community,” in 1998.