It’s been a helluva ride.
When the 2018-19 season began, I had high hopes, but they didn’t reach this kind of peak. Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Holy shit, we are here, alive and kicking until the final possible game of the postseason. And it’s as sweet as it is due to the fact that this town has amazing fans.
I’m talking about all over the country and globe. Over the course of a season, I get direct messages on Twitter from people who cheer for this team around the world, and I love it. A hockey team in a flyover state reaching the ends of the Earth sounds like a movie directed by John Lee Hancock. Somehow, it’s reality, as nonsensical yet realistic as a unforgettable comeback.
Here’s the thing. Writers are nothing without their readers. You are the oil that keeps the engine from running dry and burning out. When I pull up a draft page on Game Time, I aim to get you talking, trigger a response, and start a conversation. It’s not hot take zone; just a time and place to discuss hockey honestly without the offended police asking for a reprieve.
The best thing about this website, and the paper that drives on the same highway in the ink department, is that writers and fans sound the same. This is the voice of the fan, or at least that’s the idea behind SB Nation. A place to openly discuss a hockey team and occasionally sound off about their play. You can say what you would say at a bar here, and not be tossed in the life penalty box for a five minute major. It’s St. Louis Blues hockey after all, home of the relentless overreaction and bruised heart diaries.
Sports are great, because they can shared by a group of strangers. Tonight, both sports arenas in downtown St. Louis will be packed, rain or shine. Enterprise Center sold out its watch party tickets in ten minutes, almost as fast as a Paul McCartney concert. Later that day, Busch Stadium chimed in, offering to pack another 40,000 people into their house for a watch party. It’s not just a business transaction; it’s the latest example of two cities working together instead of standing apart. Much appreciation to the concession workers, ticket collectors and scanners, and ushers who offered to work last minute at Busch. That’s the secret ingredient in all of this.
40,000 at Busch. 20,000 in Enterprise. Another 40,000 on Market Street. Bars packed around the city and county. Fans pacing like Plager around their living rooms and porches in South City. Nervous walks. Shots for goals. Anxiety of the most bittersweet order filling the veins of diehard fans who have waited decades to see a Stanley Cup hoisted by their team at center ice. All of that will be shared tonight by a fan base that doesn’t get enough credit.
Sure, when the Winter Classic came to town, St. Louis Blues fans were praised and regarded well. But any city that gets that game is usually given a good grade. Seeing St. Louis fans pack a building to watch a game on television for so many games is something else entirely. If there is one thing that this playoff run has revealed, it’s the passionate adoration of not only the Blues and their fans, but St. Louis as a ferocious sports town.
I’ve driven after countless games for Uber, and the people who get in my car are struck in disbelief at the ride this team has taken them on. Are there people who hopped on the bandwagon late? Sure. It’s part of the game. A championship run always brings in more fans. That or a star player, like Wayne Gretzky converting thousands of Los Angeles residents into Kings fans back in the day. Sports can do that to a soul, pull you in at a certain moment when it’s safe to look.
Instead of coming here and breaking down Game 7 (which I kinda did already for the paper and on this website the other day), I wanted to simply stop in and say thank you for being the most badass of fans. The loudest group. The ones who care. The people who packed a street on Sunday night only to discover disappointment, but the same folks who will do it again tonight.
The Blues have been called relentless throughout this run. It’s become a moniker that has stuck fairly well. I think Blues fans have been relentless for 52 years. They have stood by this team through thick and thin, the good years and the bad. The wonderful beginning, painful downturn, rise of the Brett, and emergence of Pronger and MacInnis. The bittersweet air of Fuhr, bad taste of Keenan, fiery arrival of Coach Q, and the nasty collapse under Kitchen. The raspy Murray, seasoned Hitch, and now the reign of Chief. Hey buddy, you’re still here, and I thank you.
Blues fans have endured. Tonight, they could collect.
Fun fact from the esteemed Carl “The Intern” Middleman: the regular season ended 67 days ago. A familiar number for the Blues faithful. A Stanley Cup for a team that began in 1967, done 67 days after the last regular season game. You can’t write this kind of script without a wink.
One more time. Let’s. Go. Blues.