• RSS
Retired Numbers

Bob Gassoff #3
Position: Defense
Height: 5-10
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left
Born: Apr. 17, 1953, Quesnel, BC
Drafted: St. Louis' third round pick, 48th overall, in the 1973 Amateur Draft

During the rich heritage of the St. Louis Blues, many a tough hombre passed through town to wear the BlueNote. There was Steve Durbano, Noel Picard, the Plager brothers, Bob "Battleship" Kelly, Andre "Moose" DuPont… the list goes on.

None, however, was as tough as Bob Gassoff.

Gassoff only spent four seasons with the Blues before his tragic death following a motorcycle accident on Memorial Day weekend in 1977. During those four seasons, Gassoff was not only the Blues’ chief enforcer, he was evolving into a fine all-around defenseman and leader.

"He’s the most improved player on the club," then-Blues coach Emile Francis said during the 1976-77 season. The 5-foot-10, 195 pound Gassoff had improved his puck-carrying skills and his shot from the point. He also earned the respect of teammates and management for playing through injuries.

A native of Quesnel, British Columbia, Gassoff broke in with the Blues in 1973-74. The year before, he was selected with the 48th pick in the draft. In 28 games, Gassoff had no goals, three assists and 84 penalty minutes. The left-handed shooting rear guard played 60, 80 and 77 games the next three seasons and established himself as one of the most fearsome players in the game. In 1975-76, Gassoff had 306 penalty minutes. In his final season, he had a career-high six goals and 24 points, tracking in another 254 minutes in penalties.

While Gassoff never hesitated to drop the gloves in defending a teammate or fending off an attack from an opponent who wanted to try his luck, he became frustrated about the way NHL officials perceived him. In 1976 interview with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Gassoff talked about those perceptions.

"They figure that anything that happens to me, I deserve it," said Gassoff of the referees. "But I don’t think I play that dirty. When I go to take out a big guy — and I’m not big — they see me coming and they get their stick up. If I bring my stick up, even though I don’t hit them with it, the ref thinks so.

"I’m proud that I’m known as being tough, but I’d like to have people recognize my hockey skills. I’ve proved that I can fight. Now I have to work on the rest of my game.

I don’t want to be known as a goon. I’ll fight anytime someone tries to push me or one of teammates around, but I don’t go out on the ice looking for fights."

Gassoff was considered an integral player to rebuild the franchise around in 1976. Bernie Federko and Brian Sutter were drafted that year 1976 and the future looked bright from a personnel standpoint. Until that fateful Memorial Day weekend. The team had gathered for a post-season party at Garry Unger’s farm near Gray Summit, MO. Gassoff was riding his motorcycle and collided with a vehicle on a road near the farm.

He died a short time later.

Gassoff’s death stunned the Blues. It especially shook his defense partner and close friend, Bruce Affleck.

"It was just a big crush," said Affleck, "Gasser’s death really hurt."

Federko agreed, calling Gassoff "irreplaceable."

The Blues failed to reach the playoffs the next two seasons. In 1978-79, they managed just 48 points — a low water mark for the franchise — en route to a 18-50-12 season. Affleck said the death of Gassoff and the team’s sudden collapse were no coincidence.

To this day, longtime Blues followers — Affleck included — say Gassoff was without peer as an enforcer.

"He was the toughest player I’ve ever seen," said Affleck.