During the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minnesota, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin introduced herself as Sen. John McCain's running mate with a speech that was wholly appropriate for the self-proclaimed State of Hockey.
"I was just your average hockey mom. I love those hockey moms," she said to the delegates and millions watching on television. "You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."
With that, hockey became part of Palin's narrative and part of her vice presidential campaign, to the point where NHL games were used as photo opportunities for the GOP candidate before Election Day. On Oct. 11, she was invited by Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider to drop the ceremonial first puck before their home opener against the Rangers "to a mixture of cheers and boos," according to the Associated Press. The Flyers would go on to lose their next six games, and the "Palin Curse" was born.
Undaunted by the supernatural risks, St. Louis Blues owner David Checketts invited Palin to do the same at their home game against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 24. No one could have seen what would happen that night as a result of the ceremony. Certainly not Blues goalie Manny Legace.
Ten years later, a look back at that infamous night.
Manny Legace, St. Louis Blues starting goalie: We were all pretty excited about it before the walk out to the rink. It was a great story, with her running and everything. And it was actually a pretty exciting night.
John Kelly, St. Louis Blues broadcaster, Fox Sports Midwest: There was a buzz in the air that night because of Palin. The significance of who she was. There were definitely some people in the stands cheering for her. And there was definitely some booing. Any time you get a political guest, you're going to hear it from both sides. It was a unique night. I've never been involved in something like that. It was a different atmosphere in the arena.
Ben Bishop, St. Louis Blues rookie backup goalie: I don't think the boys were too caught up in Sarah Palin. But there was Secret Service everywhere. All around the locker room. Down the halls. They were around when we were going out for warm-ups. Guys were talking about them being everywhere.
Legace: It was a different kind of night. She had been doing the tour before us. The big talk was that everyone would lose when she showed up. And then I fall on the carpet, so it couldn't have been too good for her.
Before the game, a long blue carpet adorned with the team's logo was extended from the door between the benches to center ice, where Palin and her family would walk for the ceremonial puck drop. It remained there as warm-ups started.
Kelly: They put that out there all the time when they have a dignitary or an ex-player out there.
Bishop: In warm-ups, I saw the carpet. Manny went out first. I was looking around, taking it all in.
Legace: The carpet was too far for me to jump. It was pretty wide. I looked down the bench, and I wasn't going to move that way, because it was all the way down at center ice. There was a Secret Service guy standing right there, holding the edge of the carpet. They usually just roll it up and you skate off, but the Secret Service guy was right there. They were going to have it out for her, and once it's set, nothing moves. So I'm like, "Ah, I'll just step on it quick and hop over." But it's a pretty good step down in St. Louis. So as soon as I stepped down, he stepped off the carpet, and it moved. So I tried to do a little quick step, but the carpet just slid right off. And my little midget legs couldn't get over the carpet.
Kelly: Yeah ... Manny slipped on the carpet.
Legace: I tried to get up, and I stepped on the carpet again, and I fell again.
Kelly: We have a really sharp crew. I'm not sure that I saw it live, but I do know that we had it on replay.
Bishop: Apparently he tripped on it and tweaked his groin. But I was just skating out there, waving to the crowd, thinking about how cool it was to be playing in the NHL. Suddenly, [Blues forward] Dan Hinote comes up to me and says, "Manny tripped on the carpet. He hurt his groin. Be ready to go in." And I was like, "WHAT?" My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. I was almost in shock. Just total nerves. Couldn't have been more nervous.
Palin, her husband Todd, and her two youngest daughters, Piper and Willow, walked down that carpet before the game to drop the first puck between the Blues' Keith Tkachuk and the Kings' Dustin Brown, receiving a more mixed-positive reaction than she did in Philadelphia while James Brown's "Living in America" played. The First Family of Alaska left the ice and watched from the owner's box as Legace attempted to play in the first period.
Legace: My groin started tightening up during the anthem. As soon as I got to the net I said, "Uh oh." This wasn't good.
Bishop: Manny played the first period, but every time he made a save, he'd wince. I was sitting on the bench. I was so nervous. I actually walked away from the bench and started stretching in the hallway to try to calm down. I couldn't sit there and watch anymore, waiting for when I was going to get the nod.
Legace: I made a save late in the period and my groin seized up and I knew that was it. During the intermission, I told our trainer that I'm done.
Bishop: Between the first and second, the trainer told me I was going on.
Kelly: Ben had come out of St. Louis. Drafted by the Blues, and a hot prospect. You don't expect a goalie like that to make his debut like that.
Bishop: It was my second game. I had gotten called up and backed up against Detroit. Being from St. Louis, obviously with the first game at home I was just super nervous the entire time. We had a practice after that, and the next game was against L.A. I was a little more comfortable.
Legace: Oh, he would have gotten in for sure eventually. He's been doing a great job ever since.
The Kings would win 4-0. Bishop, now the starting goalie for the Dallas Stars, made 15 saves on 17 shots in his NHL debut, necessitated by Legace tripping on a carpet laid out for a vice presidential candidate. The cheeky Riverfront Times' headline on the loss: "Sarah Palin Drops the Puck, Curses Blues."
Kelly: Ten years? Ten? It feels like 20 years ago to me.
Bishop: Obviously it all worked out. Funny way to get your first NHL action in front of the home fans. But a night I'll never forget.
Legace: I strained it pretty good. My leg just shot left. It was a good one. It's the most surreal injury I've gotten, no question. Slipping on the carpet, Sarah Palin ... you're not expecting it to happen, you know?
Legace would miss five games because of the groin injury, setting his season down a disappointing path. In Feb. 2009, Legace was placed on waivers and demoted to the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL. Some felt this was symptomatic of the "Palin Curse," as Deadspin ran a post titled "Sarah Palin Gets NHL Goalie Fired." Legace was not one of those chalking this up to that fateful night.
Legace: "I wish that was the case. There'd be someone to blame it on other than myself. [Laughs] But it wasn't her fault at all. I blame the Secret Service. If that guy would have stepped off the carpet, it would have been fine."