Scotty Bowman had to convince him to report to St Louis right away after the trade. If it was up to Unger his streak would have stopped early on.
After the trade - which was received with disfavor by most St. Louis hockey fans because of
Berenson’s popularity - one of Unger’s first steps was to call then-coach Scotty Bowman to
tell him that he had a broken finger and probably wouldn’t be able to report to the Blues
Bowman, however, convinced Unger that because of the controversial nature of the trade, it
probably would be in the best interest of Unger and the Blues if he joined the team
immediately in Philadelphia.
Unger did so and for the next 8 1/2 years never missed a game.
About Al MacNeil stopping the streak
Despite an injured shoulder, Unger suited up and wanted to play. But he never got off the bench.
Flames coach A1 MacNeil later said that he was trying to win and that Unger was unfit for duty.
Unger was so incapacitated that he played in all 48 games remaining that season, which should
have ended with his streak at 963.
“He’s not a bad guy,” said Unger of MacNeil. “I don’t hold any grudges toward him. He’s the one
who has to live with it‘ A lot of times in life bosses make stupid decisions.”
Unger is still irked that MacNeil still does not admit deliberately scuttling the streak. “Our team
needed discipline at the time,” Unger said. “You know how teams will make a trade to shake things up?
Apparently he couldn’t think of anything to shake the team up. But to try to make something up,
like trying not to lose the game?”
The Blues won 7—3. MacNeil “was hanging onto the back of my sweater for the last three minutes,”
said Unger. “It was obvious that we were going to lose. Our players were going over to the bench and
telling me to jump on. I wouldn’t do it. We’d be playing with three guys on the ice and the two over
by our bench were telling me to come in for them.
“With about a minute left in the game; the whole crowd was yelling and screaming for him to put nm in.
Then the puck came over to our bench. The sticks flew up and everybody stood up. The coach thought I
was going to jump over the side. and he grabbed me around the neck.
“It was a total joke. It was done with absolutely no class at all. If he wanted to sit me out he
should have put me in the press box.”
A couple things soured Unger while with the Blues. When they reacquired Red Berenson he was bothered by the loud cheers Berenson received.
Unger was noticeably disturbed by the thunderous cheers that greeted Berenson when the Red
Baron played his first game in St. Louis after returning to the Blues. That game was against
"I don’t have anything against Red,” Unger said at the time, “but it kind of makes you wonder
what you’ve been doing the last four years when the guy you were traded for returns and is
treated like a returning hero.”
Although Unger never has said so specifically, his unhappiness with the Blues primarily was
caused by an inability to get along with Francis. The two just didn’t understand each other.
Unger was definitely a legend in St. Louis. I was born before the Hull era (after Unger though) and he was everything that the adults would talk about in regards to hockey in St. Louis. Obviously, Hull changed this, but he was definitely well respected. My mom also told me that he was the sports figure that all of the girls dreamed about back then "because of his gorgeous hair" . For this reason, I tend to compare him to Mike Modano (my sister had a huge crush on him).