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Say Hi To Game Time: J. R. Mannigel

Take a moment and get to know the Game Time staff.

We here at Gametime feel as though you’re suffering through the offseason as much as some of us are. Never fear, we have something to tide you over until those skates get laced up for the first day of practice. A get to know us segment. It’s been awhile so why not right?

Why/How did you become a Blues fan?

Like a lot of you I am following in the footsteps of my Dad. He is a certifiable sports nut and a life long fan of both the Cardinals and the Blues. However, living in rural America in the late 80’s and 90’s meant that we did a whole lot more sports listening than sports watching. In fact, I still have some very fond memories of sitting in the kitchen with my Dad and listening to a Blues game on the radio.

As I grew older I began to stray from hockey towards the other main stream sports. Besides the fact that in our neck of the woods hockey is about as popular and talked about as futbol (that’s soccer to you and me Russ) the Cardinals and Rams were winning championships and the Blues, let’s face it, simply were not. While I always enjoy rooting for an underdog it gets increasingly hard for a teenage boy to continually feign interest in a perpetual loser.

However, as the years passed, I once again found myself drifting back to hockey. Maybe it was because the love and pursuit of the almighty dollar has reduced both the NFL and NBA to nothing more than a hedge fund for wealthy owners. Or maybe it is the fact that MLB currently stands for Major League Boredom. But most likely it is because I respect and admire the game of hockey in a way that I simply don’t with any other sport. It is a tough game played by tough individuals in a sport that is ignored by a large part of the American population. I guess deep down I have always been a rebel at heart and there is nothing more rebellious than being a die hard fan of an underdog team in an underdog sport.

As far as being a Blues fan, I believe it says a lot about a person who always root, root, roots for the home team regardless of how many championships they have or have not won.

Favorite Player/Moment?

Okay, here is the moment were a lot of you are going to roll your eyes. I have never really had a “favorite” player. I believe you can find good and bad in every player in the NHL so it is really hard for me to pick out one person and say that I like them better than anyone else.

Yes, Brett Hull was a gifted goal scorer but if I ever witnessed my kid putting forth the same dedication to defense, or lack there of, as Hull did I would bench him indefinitely.

Pronger was a helluva defenseman but man that guy could be a prick. David Backes was a man’s man but how many times did he take stupid penalties in key situations just because he couldn’t keep it under control. I loved the idea of Ryan Reaves but the reality is he was a goon who hardly ever fought and scored even less.

We could do this all night.

I will say this. One night, not long after I had jumped head first into Blues fandom, I witnessed something that will always standout in my mind.

I don’t remember the exact game but I know it was during Vladimir Tarasenko’s first season in the NHL. It wasn’t how he scored the goal that impressed me as much as the way he celebrated it. He literally leapt up off the ice with both skates and had a smile on his face that could melt the polar ice caps. Now, I’ll admit that I have absolutely no idea what it is like to posses the kind of talent that Tarasenko was born with but I believe that by this time in his life scoring goals had became as easy for him as parallel parking my golf cart has become for me. But even after all those years of playing hockey and scoring countless goals lighting that lamp and hearing that horn still makes him beam with pride. That is the moment when I realized this kid might be something very special.

How did you begin writing for Game Time?

It was December of 2015. I had been a subscriber and dedicated reader of St. Louis Game Time for awhile but they were really starting to irritate me. The Blues were going through a bit of a slump and while I believed that they were much better than their current losing streak suggested it did not appear that anyone who contributed to Game Time shared a similar viewpoint.

After dramatically slamming my laptop closed and cursing under my breath, my wife sarcastically asked me what my major malfunction was. After launching into a profanity laced rant about how the writers were just playing to popular demand and were afraid to take a contrarian stance my wife interrupted me mid-sentence. “Do you think you could do better?” she asked. Before I could fire off a snarky response she made it clear that was a rhetorical question.

That night I sat down and wrote a 800 word article describing in great detail my love for this team and my intolerance for anyone who dare disagree with me. Once I completed my opus I immediately sent it to the email address that was listed on the front page of the paper. All I included in the email was my name, the reason I felt compelled to write, and the article. That was it.

I remember thinking that even if I did happen to make it through Brad Lee’s spam filter there was no way in hell I was making it in the paper. I mean I was just this nobody who had zero experience in journalism or even hockey commentary. The best I could hope for would be a reply applauding me for my efforts but informing me that there was no room for a hack like me in a professional hockey paper and from now on why don’t I do us both a favor and mind my own fucking business. Or something along those line.

Obviously, that is not how Brad’s reply email sounded. In fact, it was the complete opposite. Not only did he complement my work but he championed my resolve, even if my ideas did not happen to align with his. Staying true to his word he printed my story in the very next paper.

Filled with some new found confidence I did a couple of fan posts, which lead to a spot on a website that Dan Buffa used to manage. After a few months honing my skills I once again returned to the pages of Game Time to close out the Blues 2016 post-season run.

The 2016-17 season was my first as a full time contributor to the paper and this here website. When I think of all the new friends I have made and all of the awesome people I have met because of my involvement with Game Time I shudder to think what my life would be like had I not sent that very first article or if Brad had not bothered to reply.

How many more years do you think it'll be before the Blues win the Stanley Cup?

I really hate this question and let me tell you why. Notice how that question doesn’t say “How do you think the Blues will win a Stanley Cup” or “What will it be like when the Blues win a Stanley Cup”.

My biggest fear is that Blues fans are treating winning a championship much like teenagers treat losing their virginity. They have become so obsessed with achieving this milestone that they don’t care how they do it or what they will feel like after it is over. In fact, when asked, I think a lot of people would be willing to sacrifice the memory of the journey if that meant they were guaranteed arrival at the destination. I am afraid that Blues fans feel like winning a championship is the only way to legitimize their fandom or that once the Blues have won a Cup that everything will magically change and all of their critics will suddenly cease to exist.

The St. Louis Blues are going to win a Stanley Cup, that much I can guarantee. When that will happen is unknown to me but a safe bet would be that it will be sooner rather than later. And as soon as the parade down Market Street has ended rest assured someone will turn to me and ask me when I think the Blues will win another one.

Enjoy the journey folks. Cups will come and go but memories will last forever.

Thanks for supporting Game Time.