Ontario Hockey League grad Phil McRae has signed a short term contract with the Blues. However, this is not the St. Louis Blues of the NHL where McRae got his start in pro hockey. He is signed through November 3, 2013 with The Espoo Blues in Finland’s Liiga.
McRae played four years in the OHL from 2006-07 to 2009-10 with the London Knights and Plymouth Whalers. He was the 20th overall pick by the Knights at the 2006 OHL Priority Selection and was traded to the Whalers midway through his final year in the league.
In his final year in the OHL, Phil played for the United States at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships held in Saskatchewan. The U.S. met up with Canada in the final game and came out with a gold medal after a 6-5 victory in overtime.
The St. Louis Blues selected McRae in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, 33rd overall. He played 15 games with St. Louis in 2010-11, his only National Hockey League action to date. Until the end of the 2012-13 season, Phil spent most of his pro hockey career with the Peoria Rivermen in the American Hockey League.
Phil started the 2013-14 season with Tappara in Finland’s Liiga. After eight games, and just one assist, he was released. As mentioned, the Blues have picked him up for a short term Euro-style contract that ends on November 3.
McRae comes from a hockey playing background. Both his father Basil and uncle Chris have played in both the Ontario Hockey League and NHL.
Basil, father of Phil, played three years in the OHL from 1978-79 to 1980-81, all with the London Knights. The senior McRae was a fifth round pick of the Quebec Nordiques in 1980 and went on to play 576 regular season NHL games between 1981-82 and 1996-97. Basil played for the Nordiques, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota North Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Not an offensive threat with just 53 goals and 83 assists for 136 points, with 2,453 penalty minutes in the NHL Basil’s role was well-defined.
Uncle Chris played two years in the OHL, 1983-84 and 1984-85. He played for the Belleville Bulls, Sudbury Wolves and Oshawa Generals. Chris played 21 games in the National Hockey League between 1987-88 and 1989-90 with the Maple Leafs and Red Wings. In his final year of pro hockey, 1991-92, McRae played for the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL. He appeared in 60 games, scoring a respectable 20 goals and totalling 34 points. However, he was a headliner for his 413 PIM, a number that easily led the league.
The Blues are coming off a pretty dismal season in 2012-13 when they finished 12th in the 14 team Liiga and out of the post season. The team has yet to win a championship but did go to the finals in 2007-08 and 2010-11. Home games are played at Barona Areena in Espoo, Finland, a 6,820 seat venue opened in 1999. Espoo is the second largest city in Finland with a population of 260,000. Like most of inhabited Finland, the city is located in the far southern edge of the country on the shores of the Gulf of Finland.