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2017 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game

Kelly Chase (right), upending Chicago’s Jack O’Callahan in the NHL Winter Classic alumni game on Dec. 31, 2016 at Busch Stadium, was as hard-hitting on the air as he was on the ice. (Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com)

The departure of analyst Kelly Chase from Blues radio broadcasts is a big loss for the team’s fans, who could count on candid commentary even if it ruffled those who were paying his salary. That is a rarity in an era in which, for the most part, local announcers are reluctant to criticize the home club.

Chase said this week that he is leaving his broadcasting post in order to work in real estate, though he will remain tied to the team in its business and community development departments.

Whoever gets the on-air job will have a high standard to follow, as Chase is up there with Jim Hanifan and Tim McCarver as the most fearless analysts on St. Louis teams’ local broadcasts in this century. Kudos, too, for Darren Pang of Fox Sports Midwest’s Blues coverage. And Jim Edmonds of FSM’s Cardinals roster is well on his way to joining the list as he becomes more polished.

To wit:

Chase, after the Blues were lucky to win 2017 playoff game • “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.”

Hanifan, after the Rams’ Marc Bulger lost a fumble in the fourth quarter of what turned out to be a 20-13 loss to San Francisco in 2006 • “Oh, #%$!”

Then Frank Gore had a key run to help the 49ers run out the clock, leading Hanifan to exclaim in disgust, “Terrible job by (Rams defender) Travis Fisher. He’s ... standing right there and here comes Gore and Travis Fisher doesn’t make a play on him. Make a play! Gee whiz!”

Or how about McCarver • Early this season play-by-play announcer Dan McLaughlin tried to make a case for former Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons going into the Hall of Fame. McCarver, refusing to play the yes-man role to prop up a former Cardinal, would have none of that — but did so in a well-thought manner.

“Ted Simmons was a hitter that caught, with that in mind would his hitting alone warrant him going into the Hall of Fame?” McCarver asked. “Perhaps. He was a tough, tough dude. ... But toughness doesn’t get you into the baseball Hall of Fame — maybe the boxing Hall of Fame.”

McLaughlin continued to press his case, saying Simmons “should be in, in my opinion. And yours?”

“I don’t mean to waffle ... I’m a Simmons fan. Period,” McCarver said while holding his ground and not saying he should be in the Hall.

It was excellent banter between guys with different opinions.

Such commentary from all those broadcasters is refreshing departure from the mushy-mouth “the boys will figure things out” company-line patter that often is spewed by hometown analysts when the team is performing poorly and is an easier route to walk. Chase always took the tougher path.

VIEW FROM BELOW

Chase not only brought candid commentary to Blues radio broadcasts, as he was as hard-hitting on the air as he was as a player, but was one of the first NHL analysts to work from ice level on a regular basis.

While Chris Kerber called the play-by-play from high above in the press box, Chase often was so close to the action that he was able to provide insights — and information — that made listeners a part of the game. The practice has become commonplace, with NBC Sports’ Pierre McGuire now being known as its “Inside the Glass” analyst.

“St. Louis has been ahead of the curve on this kind of innovation,” Chase, who was a rough-and-tumble winger as a player, once said.

He was at the Blues’ bench for more than a decade, and the access led to some jewels. He once interviewed Blues center Keith Tkachuk, who had just completed a shift, and mined a gem:

“We’ve got a lot of guys not competing tonight,” Tkachuk said. “... Right now we’ve got our heads up you-know-where. We’ve got to start playing better. It’s a bad trend we’re on.”

What if the situation was reversed — a broadcaster interviewing Chase during a game in which his team was stinking?

“You might have had to have a few bleeps,” Chase said. “But the players today are different, you don’t have much of that.”

LOOKING AHEAD

The search for the replacement for Chase, who has been alongside Kerber since the 2000-01 season, is underway. Blues executive vice president and chief revenue officer Steve Chapman said there is no rush to fill the position.

“It’s a process, it’s the first time it’s come up in 18 years,” he said.

Chapman said Kerber, who is the Blues’ vice president of broadcast and content development in addition to calling games, is leading the search and will present management with recommendations.

“We’ll be looking at a lot of different candidates, we want to find the best fit,” Chapman said. He added the Terry Yake, who has done some fill-in work on the radio broadcasts, “is going to be part of the process, will be part of the mix” of those considered.

Other former Blues players who are logical candidates include Jamie Rivers, who has done some Blues broadcasting, and Cam Janssen, who has become a popular sports-talk radio host at KFNS (590 AM).

Chapman said the team isn’t looking for a Chase clone on the air.

“I don’t want to put that on anybody,” he said of the legacy Chase established. “We want somebody who brings passion energy, and knowledge to the broadcasts.”

KICKED AROUND

St. Louis sure has had its troubles with soccer in recent years. A variety of factors combined to shoot down an attempt to land an MLS franchise, a development that came after a long period of decline of college soccer in the area from its once dominant position on the national stage.

Now St. Louis is clunking along in television ratings for the World Cup, which has been going of for a week in Russia.

According to Nielsen, which tabulates viewership, the region ranks in a tie for 31st place among the 56 major U.S. markets in which ratings are tabulated electronically. Nielsen says that 1.3 percent of homes in the area with a TV have tuned in, on average, to the matches that have been shown on Fox (KTVI, Channel 2) and FS1.

Those outlets are carrying the English-language version of telecasts in the U.S., and the figures are through matches played Wednesday. Washington was No. 1, with a 2.9 rating.

This comes after St. Louis tied for 37th nationally for the last World Cup, in 2014. The U.S. team was involved that time — unlike this year — and the Gateway City finished 33rd nationally for the four American matches.

WORLD CUP RATINGS

Market-by-market ratings, through Wednesday, for World Cup telecasts this year on Fox and FS1:

MARKET RATING

1. Washington 2.9

2. Austin, Texas 2.4

2. Providence, R.I. 2.4

4. Miami 2.3

5. New York 2.1

5. San Francisco 2.1

———————————

7. W. Palm Beach, Fla. 2.0

8. San Diego 1.9

9. Los Angeles 1.8

9. Richmond, Va. 1.8

9. Tampa, Fla. 1.8

9. Orlando, Fla. 1.8

9. Tulsa, Okla. 1.8

14. Baltimore 1.7

14. Atlanta 1.7

14. Norfolk, Va. 1.7

17. Louisville 1.6

17. Dallas 1.6

17. Denver 1.6

17. Boston 1.6

17. Philadelphia 1.6

22. Indianapolis 1.5

22. Fort Myers, Fla 1.5

22. Charlotte, N.C. 1.5

22. Hartford, Conn. 1.5

26. Chicago 1.4

26. Birmingham, Ala. 1.4

26. Kansas City 1.4

26. Raleigh, N.C. 1.4

26. Detroit 1.4

31. St. Louis 1.3

31. Las Vegas 1.3

31. Milwaukee 1.3

34. Houston 1.2

34. Sacramento, Calif. 1.2

34. Seattle 1.2

34. Dayton, Ohio 1.2

34. Jacksonville, Fla. 1.2

34. Portland, Ore. 1.2

34. Salt Lake City 1.2

34. New Orleans 1.2

34. Cincinnati 1.2

43. Columbus, Ohio 1.1

43. Nashville 1.1

43. Cleveland 1.1

46. Minneapolis 1.0

46. Buffalo 1.0

46. Greenville, S.C. 1.0

46. Albuquerque, N.M. 1.0

46. San Antonio 1.0

51. Greensboro, N.C. 0.9

51. Phoenix 0.9

53. Pittsburgh 0.8

53. Knoxville, Tenn. 0.8

53. Memphis 0.8

56. Oklahoma City 0.7

Note • The rating is the percentage of homes with a TV tuned in.

Source • Nielsen