Right as the clock struck midnight, the St. Louis Blues wiped away the tears of a tough loss in Arizona by releasing a special video to fans on Twitter. Check it out.
When I saw the video arrive on my Twitter feed, I happened to be facing west on Clark Avenue, the St. Louis Wheel and The Enterprise Center in my view far down the road. People were running around outside Tin Roof as fireworks cracked through the cold downtown air. I smiled a bit and thought back to the Old Blues Hockey Testament, or what I like to call “Before June 12, 2019.”
That’s the beautiful thing about sports adoration. The good times hit you like a drug, taking the weary travel of everyday life away for just a few minutes, or if you’re lucky, a few hours. When I watched the video, I started thinking about all the older fans who had waited decades for this championship. I thought about their sons and daughters, and their grandsons and granddaughters who were going to adopt this endlessly satisfying and routinely disappointing over-the-ice drug. I didn’t cry, because I don’t do that easily without Michael Bolton and Platoon playing simultaneously in the same room, but I thought about it.
You see, hockey is different than other sports. It’s physical, beautiful, dirty, and violent-but at the same time, there’s a graceful elegance to the game. It gives and takes. Unlike baseball, it doesn’t occur on 98% of the regular season schedule. Unlike football, it’s not once a week. Unlike basketball, well, hockey isn’t boring. It’s exhilarating for even the most casual of fan. You can walk into a live game and instantly download the feel of a game. The chilly air, reckless soundtrack, and overly boisterous fans. You don’t get that in baseball. The pitcher can’t shove the hitter in the face after a double. Coaches can’t tell an umpire to go fuck themselves and stay in the game. It’s just different.
As 2020 rolls in with St. Louis carrying one of the best records in the NHL, I wanted to put out a thankful list. Ten things to be thankful for. Maybe it’s too late. People do this shit around Christmas, but then again, I’m not most people. I’m what the Twitter folk call “a polarizing figure.” I’ll make them short and sweet, so don’t click out of this to go watch a monkey train a baby how to wipe their ass.
10) Robert Bortuzzo
Sure, he’s like a right-handed late career Barret Jackman at times, but he’s the filthy thug this defensive core needs. He can score a goal here and there, and punch the opposition in the jaw. He also looks like the fourth henchman in “The Irishman,” which is cool. Big Bob doesn’t have a lot of precision to his game, but he gets the job done for a cheap cost.
9) Tyler Bozak
When he was signed, most fans frowned. And then they read the Player’s Tribune article where he said winning a Cup is what he came to St. Louis to do. The man must be a magician, because that happened. Bozak is a solid hockey player. He’s a carpenter out there: doing whatever the coaching staff needs while adding some skill and grit. Good signing. And his wife, Molly, is an amazing Twitter follow.
8) Oskar Sundqvist
Players like “Sunny” don’t come around too often. He can knock someone on his ass, put a good shot on net, forecheck like his life depended on it, get back in the defensive zone to cover, and looks like an extra from a Guy Ritchie movie. I don’t know what Tom Wilson knocked into him, but I can see myself going to Washington to ask for a serving. He’s money well spent, unlike some people on this roster.
7) Jake Allen
Fun Fact: Allen hasn’t had a bad game in just about two months. The worst performance came against Buffalo where he allowed three goals on 31 shots. Outside of that, the best backup in hockey has been nails. Overall, a 2.18 GAA and .930 save percentage. When he gets a start these days, I don’t panic and neither does the team. I blame Jordan Binnington for this Allen revival. Since he took over the net, the artist formerly known as “don’t hold your breath in January” has been solid.
Do I have to write anything here?
5) Doug Armstrong
I wanted the man gone not too long ago. There was a time when all you meant to me and many others were bad extensions. Doug turned things around, making a series of trades and moves that other GMs will study in years to come. He got lucky with Binnington magic, but that doesn’t take away the construction work he did on the rest of this house. Trading for Brayden Schenn and Ryan O’Reilly was the secret ingredient. Center depth. Once upon a time ... the Blues needed that badly.
4) Alex Pietrangelo
Captain Petro does it all. He scores, plays big minutes, defends the other team’s best, and goes home to triplets! When his playing days are over, there’ll be a statue out front with him hoisting the Stanley Cup. Bet on it.
3) David Perron
All Star or not, he has overachieved this season. Few saw him being on pace for 30 goals and 70 points. Some didn’t want him here at all. But this latest Perron update, the third one in St. Louis, is undoubtedly the best. There’s still Perronalities, but they seem fewer and farther in between. He’s a playmaker who happens to be money in overtime. He also loves this city and is a fine man off the ice. Money well spent.
2) Craig Berube
The man who brought it all together. Anyone else takes over this team and the Blues don’t go on that Cup run. Give Armstrong credit for fixing his own screw-up a year ago and installing Chief. The man cuts the shit, doesn’t care about feelings, and got through to this hockey team in the heat of a failing season. He’s won 80 games, playoffs included, since taking over as head coach. He’s not going anywhere.
1) Tom Stillman
Without him, none of this happens. He’s the instrumental mind behind the scenes. The passionate hockey guy who wanted to bring St. Louis together. Through actions on and off the ice, he’s succeeded. This team is built to win for a long time. Youngsters are coming up, spending happens, and risks are taken. Stillman is a man of his word. What a beautiful thing.
The Blues didn’t just win the Stanley Cup; they are set up to contend for it through the next decade. Pieces are in place. Cornerstones are settling. Coaching staff, roster, and all.
There’s a lot to be thankful for with this team. They turned the frown upside down in 2019.
Sky’s the limit in 2020.