ST. LOUIS - Sarah Palin got a big welcome from St. Louis Blues fans when she dropped the ceremonial first puck. And when the first on-ice fight broke out, the Republican vice presidential nominee returned the enthusiasm.
The self-described "hockey mom" got more cheers than boos on Friday night before the Blues' 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Some of the 19,150 in attendance booed, but they were all but drowned out by loud cheers for the Alaska governor and running mate of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
Just minutes into the game, Blues enforcer Cam Janssen and Kings tough guy Sean O'Donnell dropped the gloves and began to fight near centre ice. By then, Palin was in a luxury box with Blues principal owner Dave Checketts.
Palin watched the fight enthusiastically, clapping as the fight got more intense. By the time referees separated the combatants, Palin was waving an oversized foam Blues finger.
She also waived to the crowd from the box and reached over the railing to shake a few outstretched hands before an usher arrived to keep well-wishers away.
Palin's appearance might have been indirectly costly to the Blues as goalie Manny Legace left the game after one period with a strained left hip flexor - an injury that occurred when he slipped on the carpet placed on the ice for Palin and her family to walk on.
Just before the ceremony, Legace was the first player onto the ice for St. Louis. A team official pointed to the carpet, but as Legace stepped onto it with his skate, he fell, then gingerly made his way to the crease.
After that, the team official rolled up enough of the carpet so other players wouldn't have to step on it.
"I felt a pull right away," Legace said. "I was hoping it would just go away."
Legace played one period, giving up two goals on 12 shots. He won't play Saturday when the Blues host Florida, but doesn't believe the injury is serious.
The reaction in St. Louis was in contrast to Oct. 11, when Palin dropped the puck before Philadelphia's season-opener. The Philly crowd gave Palin a louder chorus of boos that eventually turned into polite applause.
In St. Louis, Palin was joined on the ice by her husband, Todd, and her two youngest daughters, Piper, 7, and Willow, 14, both wearing Blues jerseys with the number "08." She dropped the puck for St. Louis' Keith Tkachuk and the Kings' Dustin Brown.
The appearance came after a long day in Missouri for Palin. She appeared at a lunchtime rally at Springfield in southwestern Missouri, then gave depositions at a St. Louis hotel over allegations that she abused her power as governor in firing Alaska's public safety commissioner.
There was only sparse evidence of protests outside the arena Friday night. The Missouri Democratic Party said it handed out pictures of Palin with the heading, "Because when your donors are paying the bill nothing is too expensive." It was a reference to spending reports showing the Republican National Committee paid US$150,000 for designer clothes and beauty services for Palin and her family.