The Original Blues Organist who provided a real home ice advantage
A Journey into Hockey
It's not a name that recalled by many outside of St. Louis. And, there are many who were not even alive when he made his name, but Norm Kramer was a star for the St. Louis Blues in their early years - though he never stepped on the ice.
Kramer was the organist at the St. Louis Arena for the first seasons of the Blues. Moreover, he was the first to add music help the crowd cheer. Though there had been organists before, he helped introduced a new type of arena experience, playing music during play stoppages during the periods - something that eventually became commonplace and was the prelude of what is now euphemistically called the "arena entertainment experience".
He helped get the St. Louis crowd primed and was most famous for his renditions of both the St. Louis Blues and When the Blues Go Marching In.
So impactful was he that Scotty Bowman coach of the Blues during those years feels that Kramer was vital to the team's success .
"Norm Kramer, someone wrote an article saying that he was worth half a goal a game for the team. The first year the team paid him $35 a night and he had instant fame", said Bowman to Evan Weiner, then of NHL.com in 2010.
When it came time to talk money, Kramer new his worth. This story has become Blues and hockey legend. Here it is explained to Evan Weiner by Scotty Bowman:
(Kramer) wanted $10,000 (a year) instead of what, $35 a game which is a little over a thousand. The owners said, 'No we cannot afford that kind of money, Norm, even though you got a lot of notoriety from playing for us.'
"So he hauled out the newspaper and he says you got some players who are being paid $20,000, he says I am worth a half a goal a game (which meant he was a 20-goal scorer in a half-season of work without the playoffs), they don't even score 10 goals in a season."
"The newspapermen said somebody in our organization felt he was worth a half a goal a game to our team, and he probably was worth that at the time because he was the first guy who put music in and the got the crowd going," Bowman said.
Kramer lasted only the first few years. He was missed. The Blues and the atmosphere at the Arena was never quite the same after he left.
He never played a game, but he was an integral part of those early Blues.