This story first appeared on Page 5 (The Five Hole) of the Feb. 6, 2020 edition of the St. Louis Game Time paper, sold outside of every Blues home game. For more information or to subscribe, email firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s now a clean sweep for long-suffering franchises. In each of the four major North American sports, a team that had never won (or hadn’t in a long-ass time) won a championship. It started with a hockey club. You might have heard the story before, but that doesn’t make it any less incredible. See, this team had existed for 52 years. They had reached the Final in their first three, but didn’t win one game there, let alone four. Since 1970, they hadn’t been back to the championship round. They kicked that door down in May, then in June, won the whole fucking thing. I heard it set off a pretty big celebration.
The day after that team lifted the Stanley Cup, the Toronto Raptors — the only NBA franchise in Canada, and a team that had been around since 1995 and had never reached the Finals — won it all. In October, the Washington Nationals, who had won a single, solitary playoff round since coming into the league in 1969, won the World Series. The 1969-70 season was also the last time the Kansas City Chiefs had won the Super Bowl. All of these franchises deserved their “cursed” labels, but the Chiefs might have taken the cake; in six of the past seven seasons, they’d lost playoff games by one possession.
That’s all over now. It didn’t require an act from some almighty being. No one had to sacrifice a live chicken. It just, eventually, happened. In time, it will happen, too, for the Buffalo Sabres, the Vancouver Canucks, the Cleveland Indians, and a handful of other long-suffering franchises. It will be great for all of those cities. But when it happens, it will be a matter of time and odds. If you play the game long enough, sooner or later, your number will get called.
Five thoughts while going to get my baby back home.
1. This might mean absolutely nothing, but I found it curious. The other day, the Blues rolled out a three-year season ticket plan. Chris Zimmerman recorded a video in which he announced the new package, and the accompanying text was the script he was reading from. But there was a slight discrepancy: The text posted to the website read, “These leases have been extremely well-received by our premium season ticket holders … ” while in the video (at 1:57), Zimmerman said, “Individual season ticket holders.”
I also got a kick out of Zimmerman using Gary Bettman’s famous term from the 2004-05 lockout: “Cost certainty.” Those words cost us an entire season. May they never be spoken in hockey again.
2. The contrast in Doug Armstrong narratives over the past few days has been stark. Craig Custance at The Athletic surveyed some NHL player agents, and he asked about the most unreasonable GM to deal with. Armstrong came in second. One agent said about him, “I would just say that he’s very inflexible when he takes a position, and the frustrating part is that no matter how many reasonable arguments you make, he doesn’t seem to listen. With other GMs, they say no but there’s an acknowledgment of your position.”
On the other hand, all we heard during Tuesday’s broadcast was how classy and generous he was in inviting Joel Edmundson’s parents to see their son get his Stanley Cup ring (and paying their way). I’m glad he can be both. I want my GM to be ruthless and cunning, but also to keep people guessing about which side of him they’re gonna get.
3. Speaking of Edmundson, he entered Tuesday night’s game with the exact same goal and assist totals as Justin Faulk. Edmundson is 26, makes $3.1 million, and is a UFA next year. Faulk is 27 and will make $6.5 million through the 2026-27 season. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
4. More Edmundson: Was there a wackier playoff series than the first round in 2017? The Blues, by and large, got dominated, but won in five. Jake Allen put up a 95.6 save percentage, Edmundson won a game in overtime ...
... and then opened the scoring in the next game, and Magnus Paajarvi scored a series-clinching goal. Let that all soak in for a second.
5. Chalk up Zach Sanford for a six-game point streak. He put up half a point per game in last year’s playoffs (four points in eight games) and is on the same pace this season, through 41 games played. Makes you wonder where he’d be had he not lost the entire 2017-18 season to the shoulder injury he suffered in training camp. Also makes you thank your lucky stars he didn’t re-injure the shoulder when Robert Bortuzzo beat him up in practice last year.
If you enjoyed this story — and even if you didn’t — you should check out my book, Ticketless: How Sneaking Into The Super Bowl And Everything Else (Almost) Held My Life Together.