Bernie Federko is one of St. Louis' most-remembered and loved hockey players. In all but one of his fourteen seasons in the NHL Bernie played for the St. Louis Blues and was a member of many great Blues teams during that tenure. In his final season he played for the Red Wings, but Federko is and always will be remembered best for what he did as a Blue, on and off the ice. In fact, he continues to be a big part of the St. Louis community, as he lives there and continues to be involved in local charities. He also continues to be involved with the blues, as he is now half of a 2-man television broadcasting team for the Blues which also features Ken "Oh Baby!" Wilson. Bernie does the color while Wilson does the play-by-play and they are either on KPLR WB-11 or Fox Sports Midwest.
Bernard Allan Federko was born on May 12, 1956 in Foam Lake, Saskatchewan. He stands at just six feet tall and played in the NHL as a forward. He played in 1000 NHL games – 927 for the Blues and 73 for the Red Wings. He played in the 1976-1977 season through the 1988-1989 seasons for the Blues and finished out his career playing the 1989-1990 season for the Red Wings. During his career he amassed 1130 regular-season points (369 goals, 761 assists) and spent 487 minutes in the Sin Bin. As far as playoffs go, Bernie collected 101 points (35G, 66A) and 83 penalty minutes in 91 games played. They were all for the Blues, as he did not play in the playoffs with the Wings.
Bernie Federko was selected by the St. Louis Blues in Round 1, seventh overall, in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft. He was also selected by the Edmonton Oilers in Round 1, sixth overall in the 1976 WHA Amateur Draft. After high school, he traveled 240 kilometres northwest from his home town to play for the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Canada Hockey League (he played for them from 1973-76) where he scored 63 goals, 211 assists, which was good for 274 points. He led those Blades to the league finals in 1975 and 1976. He had became a hot commodity among NHL Scouts his last year there; he broke Bobby Clarke’s single season record for points with 187 and led the playoffs in scoring with 45 points in 20 games. His efforts were rewarded with a 1st Team All-Star berth, WCHL MVP honors and a high-ranked position in the draft.
In the 1976-77 season he moved south and played for the Kansas City Blues where he scored 30 goals and 39 assists. Also that season he got his first shot at the Big League, playing for the St. Louis Blues where he got some points that really count: 14 goals and 9 assists which was good for 23 points. That wasn’t too bad at all for only 31 games.
After 1977, Bernie never looked back, spending the rest of his career at the NHL level. St. Louis, where he had to live once he made it big, was a far way from his native town of Foam Lake. But, according to him, it actually felt a lot like home:
"It is a long way away from home," he said, "but I spent my entire adult life here. Our children were born here. I left Foam Lake after my last year of high school when I was 17. Life takes you where you make your living. We've been very fortunate… This is a very small community in many ways (St. Louis) …that's what is so wonderful. It's so much like being at home. I grew up on the prairie. These are the same kind of people. For a city of 2.5 million, it seems smaller than that.”
In all his years in the Gateway City, Federko saw a lot of ups and downs while donning the Blue Note. He saw the Blues ownership crisis in the early 80’s where the corporate owners refused to send the Blues to the 1983 entry draft, and he also led the league in playoff scoring along with teammate Doug Gilmour (21 points) in 1986. That was the storybook season where the Blues, who weren’t even expected to make the playoffs, stormed into the extra season and clawed into the third round where they lost in seven games to the Calgary Flames. Of course, as many Blues fans remember, Game Six of that series took place on a famed Monday night: The Monday Night Miracle. The Blues, down 3 games to 2 in the conference final and trailing 5-1 at home in the third period, rallied to win 6-5 in overtime on the late Doug Wickenheiser's goal. Federko had the assist on that famous goal, on his 30th birthday no less.
”1986 was the year we didn't have a minor-league system," Federko recalled of that famous year. "We had only 20 guys who could play and no depth. Brian Sutter was hurt most of that year but he was always in the locker room with that same attitude. Greg Paslawski and 'Wick' had great years as did our goalies, Greg Millen and Rick Walmsley. Plus, Barclay was sick that year and we were determined to win it all for him. Our coach, Jacques Demers, really had that attitude.”
Federko led the Blues in scoring no less than nine times. He topped 90 points seven times and 100 points four times. Most people don’t know this, but it was Bernie who perfected the art of setting up the play behind the opponent’s net – while Wayne Gretzky was still popping pimples in junior high.
Bernie Federko, or “The Magician” as he came to be called among hockey fans in St. Louis, reached many milestones while donning the Blue Note. On March 19, 1988 he recorded an assist which proved to be 1,000th point and became only the 22nd player in NHL history to reach that plateau. After the 88-89 season, the year Federko had the “C” stitched below his left shoulder, he held no less than 11 Blues career records, including games played (927), goals (352), assists (721) and points (1,073). These numbers made it all the more shocking when, in the summer of 1989, he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings. He was traded with Tony McKegney to the Wings on June 15 for Adam Oates and Paul MacLean.
In the Motor City, Federko had a good season, scoring 17 goals and 40 assists and reached the milestone of 1,000 games played. At the end of that year, however, he decided to hang up his skates and enter the halls of hockey history.
Bernie returned to St. Louis where he had hung his hat for so many years. Even though he spent that final season with the Winged Wonders, he was always considered a true Blue by his adoring fans. It was almost unthinkable to picture him playing in any other uniform other than one with a big blue musical note on the chest. He chose to go back and live there with his wife Bernadette and his kids Jordy, Dusty, and Drew.
As if Bernie didn’t have enough accolades, on Monday, November 4, 2002 he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is so far the only true St. Louis Blue to ever get into the great Hall. Sure, Gretzky made it in, but he only had a cup of tea with the Blues at the end of the 1995-1996 season. The Blues and St. Louis decided to reward him for that achievement by placing a bronze statue of him at the Savvis Center (home of the Blues, formerly Kiel Center) early in the 2003-2004 season.
Unbeknownst to many of his fans, he was General Manager of the St. Louis Vipers (1993-1996) of the ill-fated roller hockey league (RHI) and managed them to the league championship in its final year before it folded.
Now, as mentioned earlier, he still lives in St. Louis and works as a color commentator for the team. He also busies himself being involved in numerous local charities; he does anything to show his undying support for the community and his former team.
"I've been involved with all kinds of charities here," Bernie said of his community involvement. "When players come here, they get involved. We're in the limelight as athletes and get to meet the CEOs of all the big companies located here. We strike up friendships, see them at the same functions, at charities and out on the town. As a result, you become friends with people in all walks of life…”
Given that, according to anybody you talk to who has met the man, Bernie Federko is such a classy and nice guy and making friends comes easy to him. After all, he made friends with an entire metropolitan area in Eastern Missouri.
Internet Hockey Database (www.hockeydb.com)