Bernie Federko is one of the greatest players to play in the NHL, only not everyone knows it.
Federko recorded 11 straight 20-goal seasons and four 100-point seasons in his illustrious NHL career. He became the first player in National Hockey League history to record 50 assists in 10 consecutive seasons. 13 of his 14 NHL seasons were spent in St. Louis where he is considered to be arguably the greatest Blue ever. When he was traded to Detroit late in his career, he was the Blue's all time leader in seasons, games played, goals, assists and points.
Yet recognition was hard to come by for the native of Foam Lake Saskatchewan. Being over shadowed by some of the NHL's greatest offensive forces (Federko played in an era of 150 point scorers like Gretzky, Lemieux, Bossy, Kurri and Yzerman), Federko's skill was often overlooked in St. Louis. Another reason that Federko was overlooked was that his team never came close to accomplishing much in the playoffs like the Oilers or Islanders did. It didn't help that St. Louis was one of hockey's smallest markets either.
Federko was one of the game's best playmakers in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. His outstanding hockey sense and anticipation combined with his soft hands placed him among the league's elite playmakers. Unselfish is probably the best adjective to describe Bernie, although under-rated also comes to mind. Wayne Gretzky of course popularized using the area behind the net (better known as Gretzky's Office) as an area to set up plays, but Bernie was also adept in that area, and actually used that area to his advantage earlier than Gretzky did.
Bernie was an average skater, a step slow in comparison to the Gretzkys and Yzermans of the league. He however had great balanced which made him hard to knock off the puck, despite his average size. This also enabled him to excel in traffic. Federko was never a physical player, but was always willing to take or give a hit in order to make a play.
Bernie was an under-rated goal scorer as well. He was a consistent 30 goal threat during his prime. He peaked at 41 in 1983-84 and scored more than 20 in 11 consecutive seasons. His wrist shot was particularly deadly. .
Federko's career started by playing three spectacular years with the WHL's Saskatoon Blades. In his final season with the Blades, 1975-76, Bernie recorded 72 goals and 187 points in 72 games. In total Bernie scored 133 goals and 211 assists for 344 points in just 206 games. His incredible numbers earned Federko the 7th overall selection by the Blues in the 1976 Amateur Draft.
After starting the year with the Blue's farm team in Kansas City of the CHL, Bernie debuted with St. Louis in 1976-77 in 31 regular season games, notching 23 points.
Federko went on to play 12 full seasons with the Blues. He notched seven 30-goal seasons and he had nine seasons with at least 80 points, including a career best 107, also in 1983-84. He became Mr. St. Louis Blue, leading the team in all major career scoring statistics.
After 13 years in St. Louis, Bernie was traded to the Detroit Red Wings prior to the 1989-90 campaign. Federko and fellow veteran Tony McKegney in exchange for Paul MacLean and Adam Oates - a younger but very similar player to Federko. He played just one season in Detroit, scoring 17 goals and 57 points in 73 games. It was a tough year for Federko.
"It was kind of a different year for me after being in St. Louis for 13 years. It was really kind of a shock to be traded first of all. And to end up in Detroit and on a team that didn’t make the playoffs … we had made the playoffs the last 10, 11 years straight that I was in St. Louis and we didn’t make the playoffs in Detroit. It was almost a really kind of a rotten year."
One of the few highlights for Federko in Detroit was playing in his 1000th career NHL game, which also happened to be his final game in the NHL.
"It was the last game of the season and it happened to be 1,000. And I think when I look back now, if I hadn’t hit the 1,000 mark, if it would have been 999, I may have decided to play another year because I think it was important to get to 1,000. And I think when I look back on it, if I hadn’t have got it, I would have been very disappointed. So as it turned out, it was 1,000. I think maybe it was the writing on the wall that it was time to retire.”
Upon retiring from the NHL in 1990, Federko had recorded 369 goals, 761 assists and 1,130 points in 1,000 regular season games. He added 101 points in 91 playoff contests. Bernie also played in the 1980 and 1981 NHL All-Star Games.
After retiring, Federko returned to St. Louis where he has become a fixture on St. Louis Blues broadcasting programs. The Blues also retired Bernie's #24. It was a bittersweet moment for Bernie, as he told NHLPA.com.
“It was a special moment. There’s no question it was a special moment. But it was kind of … I still had that little boy in my heart that I wanted to finish my career in St. Louis. So I think that as I look back, even though the banner’s hanging there, it isn’t as special as it would have been if I would have played my whole career in St. Louis. But it was a really special moment when they asked me to do it. But it was something that was always missing and even today, it still is always missing, the fact that I played my 1,000th game in another uniform. Because it was a dream … especially after being here for 13 years, that I wanted to finish here. And everybody knew it but because of the nature of the business, it didn’t end that way. But I don’t think there’s anything greater, a more flattering incident, then when they do hang your jersey up. The St. Louis Blues were my life even though I played that one year in Detroit. The Blues were still my life. It’s almost something that was not there, like that year did not happen."