Growing up in Springfield, MO in the 90s, hockey wasn't a sport. The attitude towards hockey consisted of all the classics:
"I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out."
"Why would I want to spend 3 hours watching something that could end in a 0-0 tie?"
It didn't really matter, since the only hockey that I even had access to was the Stanley Cup finals. Oh, I'd watch it, but only because there wasn't any football and only if the Cardinals weren't playing that night.
My first semester in college at the University of Missouri-Rolla, our dorm had a social event at someplace called the Kiel Center, to watch the Blues play the Detroit Red Wings in what would be a routine rivalry night game to most fans. Not for me though.
Our seats were in the last row of the upper bowl, right where the McDonald's 4-goal counter is now. As the game went on, there were hits, goals, fights (this was at the height of the Blues/Wings rivalry, unbeknownst to me). I had a general idea of what was going on but yes, I was constantly confused every time they'd blow the whistle for seemingly nothing (this was still the days of the illegal 2-line pass). Despite that, atmosphere was intoxicating. The way the crowd jumped to their feet with each goal before giving high-fives and hugs to total strangers...the way the fans screamed at the players (and refs) as if they could be heard...the sound of that amazing fog-horn and organ whenever the Blues scored. As time ran out, the game ended with the score 4-4...another boring tie, right? Wrong! The game was about to go to OVERTIME!
To be honest, I don't remember much. My mind was too busy trying to learn the names on the ice, watching the puck go from player to player as both teams tried to end the game in their favor. Then it happened. #44 for the Blues found #38 on a breakaway! #38 skated in towards the net like a rocket, shot the puck on a goalie I still can't name, and the puck was in! I had never heard anything louder in my life! I was on my feet as if I'd been a fan for life. I lost my voice screaming "Let's Go Blues!" I was in love.
Pronger to Demitra ended that game. Turgeon. MacInnis. Young. Chase. Hecht. Reasoner. Pellerin. Eastwood. Nash. I began learning the roster. I began watching every game that was televised. I began reading the history, from the '67 foundation, to The Checkerdome, to Brett Hull.
We won the President's Trophy that year and I was still innocent and ignorant to the years of playoff disappointment. Sure I had read about how they'd failed to win the Cup over the 33 year history, but hey, this was the first time they were best in the league right? How hard would it be to win 16 more games? They were knocked out in the first round against the Sharks.
Since that year, I quickly seasoned into the disappointment of early playoff exits. Nevertheless, the hunger for the experience of that first Cup kept me going. After college, I moved to St. Louis in 2005, and with a steady paycheck, I bought my first Blues Season Ticket pack with some friends after the lockout season. To this day, my season ticket pack is budgeting into my yearly spending. To really give you and idea of how crazy I am, before we were married, I gave my wife (who grew up in Zambia most of her life) a test: I took her to a Blues game. If she loved it, I knew where to go next. If she didn't, I knew she wasn't the one...true story.
Through the dark years started by the Lauries' attempted sale of Blues that could have taken the team to Canada in 2005 to the return of playoff mediocrity in 2010...Through the annual rite of heartbreak on the ice, to the tragedies off the ice, including the death of the Blue who got me into hockey, that one #38...Through the triumphs of my first Blues game to attending the Winter Classic in a merger of my two favorite (okay, two ONLY) St. Louis sports organizations. I have been a Blues fan.
And I will continue to stick with my St. Louis Blues, coping with all of the low points along the way, in that continued hope of experiencing the greatest high point when the Blues host a parade through downtown St. Louis. All thanks to a random dorm social event on 10/30/1999.