ST. LOUIS - Sarah Palin got a big welcome from St. Louis Blues fans when she dropped the ceremonial first puck. And when the first on-ice fight broke out, the Republican vice presidential nominee returned the enthusiasm.
The self-described “hockey mom” got more cheers than boos on Friday night before the Blues lost to the Los Angeles Kings 4-0. Some in the near-capacity crowd at the Scottrade Center booed, but they were all but drowned out by loud cheers for the Alaska governor and running mate of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
Just minutes into the game, Blues enforcer Cam Janssen and Kings tough guy Sean O’Donnell dropped the gloves and began to fight near center ice. By then, Palin was in a luxury box with Blues principal owner Dave Checketts.
Palin watched the fight intently, clapping as the fight got more intense. By the time referees separated the combatants, Palin was waving an oversized foam Blues finger.
She also waived to the crowd from the box and reached over the railing to shake a few outstretched hands before an usher arrived to keep well-wishers away.
Palin’s appearance was costly to the Blues as goalie Manny Legace left the game after one period with an injury that occurred when he tripped over the carpet placed on the ice for Palin and her family to walk on.
Just before the ceremony, Legace was the first player onto the ice for St. Louis. A team official pointed to the carpet. But Legace said the official moved his own foot from the carpet just as Legace stepped down, causing the carpet to slide.
Legace fell, then gingerly made his way to the crease.
After Legace’s mishap, the official rolled up enough of the carpet so other players wouldn’t have to step on it.
Legace described the injury as a strained left hip flexor. He doesn’t believe it is serious but said it is painful. He said he won’t play Saturday when the Blues host Florida, but wasn’t sure if he’d miss any additional games.
“I went to go step on the ice and the (Scottrade Center security) guy goes, 'Watch the carpet,’ and he had his foot there holding it, so I figured it would be safe to step on,” Legace said. “If he’s holding it and I figured the other end’s pretty much secure, I was just worrying about the carpet slipping (forward). As soon as I went to step down, he took his foot off the carpet. As soon as I stepped on the carpet, the carpet just shot out and my leg kept going and my other one was still on the bench. I felt it pull right away.”
But after making his first save, the injury felt worse, Legace said. He played one period, giving up two goals on 12 shots. After the intermission, the team said he suffered a “lower body” injury but did not immediately elaborate. He was replaced by Ben Bishop, making his NHL debut.
Legace is 4-2 with a 2.94 goals-against average in six games this season. He is 313-291 in his nine-year career. He was selected to the Western Conference All-Star team last season.
It was Palin’s second appearance at an NHL game this month. She also dropped the ceremonial puck at Philadelphia on Oct. 11.
Legace didn’t blame Palin for the injury.
“She’s been pretty good for our game,” Legace said. “I’m starting to like her more and more. No grudge.”
Chris Lee / AP
St. Louis Blues goalie Manny Legace trips on a carpet set up on the ice for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to later drop the ceremonial first puck to Friday's game against the Los Angeles Kings. Legace suffered a strained left hip flexor and had to leave the game after the first period.
In St. Louis, Palin was joined on the ice by her husband, Todd, and her two youngest daughters, Piper, 7, and Willow, 14, both wearing Blues jerseys with the number “08.” She dropped the puck for St. Louis’ Keith Tkachuk and the Kings’ Dustin Brown.
The appearance came after a long day in Missouri for Palin. She appeared at a lunchtime rally at Springfield in southwestern Missouri, then gave depositions at a St. Louis hotel over allegations that she abused her power as governor in firing Alaska’s public safety commissioner.
There was only sparse evidence of protests outside the arena Friday night. The Missouri Democratic Party said it handed out pictures of Palin with the heading, “Because when your donors are paying the bill nothing is too expensive.” It was a reference to spending reports showing the Republican National Committee paid $150,000 for designer clothes and beauty services for Palin and her family.
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