Just over 14 months from winning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, the Blues ended the 2019-20 season with a whimper. Maybe not even a whimper as that indicates life of some type. With a damn disappointment really. The trademark resiliency of the team vanished. We all know everything that happened between then and now: THE parade, team days with the Cup. Fans 10 seconds with the Cup. Eddie, Maroon and Fabbri out, Faulk, de la Rose and Scandella in. New season hopes for a Cup repeat. JBo nearly dies on the bench. From rough start to first place in the west at the time Covid halted all sports. Boredom. Bubble. Restart. Thud.
So. What next?
Obviously, the biggest question needing to be answered is the one that will lead to a domino effect on the makeup of the team: The Alex Pietrangelo saga. Will he? Won’t he? How much? Where does the cap money come from? Does Jake Allen get dumped for cap room? Will Dunn be resigned? Will Tarasenko’s medical issues force his retirement? Lots of questions. I’m not exploring those issues in this year-end wrap. My intent was to point to economic realities, along with performance evaluations, could make this a very different team next year.
If that wasn’t enough, don’t forget, the Covid season will infringe on the 2020-21 season, causing, at this moment, the season to start with the Winter Classic on January 1. Which, if you don’t remember, will pit the Minnesota Wild against whatever "new Blues" are constructed over these next few months.
Whew. So much we Blues fans have and will go through in just a few short years time.
Now as I usually do, I give my take on the season. Until last year, it’s usually about how bummed I am after another disappointing early exit. And you might think that after the crash and burn that was the Covid Hunger Games of Hockey for the Blues that I might be sinking into another 3 month depression, patiently waiting for the fresh opportunity that a new season brings.
However, I’m pretty ambivalent at this moment. Sure, I’m disappointed we’re out and won’t repeat. I’m a pretty hardcore fan, I should be devastated, right? I started pondering why that might be the case and I think I’ve figured it out.
First, and most important, we won the Cup last year. Nothing will ever be more cathartic than unloading a lifetime of frustration than winning that which was ever elusive. It’s a factor, but it’s deeper than that.
It’s the thing that has changed life as we know it. Covid.
Everyone has a different story even as we share in this thing together. A different difficulty seemingly each day. Some financial. Some emotional. Some health related. Whether trying to find toilet paper, Clorox wipes, masks and sanitizer or just trying to keep from going insane being cooped up at home for months with no sports. It’s been a long, strange trip for everyone.
As I said, I thought quite a bit about this, and I think the apathy I feel comes from the disruption of my "sports life" as I knew it. From September until Summer every year, I spend 40+ nights with 18,096 of my closest friends, cheering for our team live. The energy. The shared experiences. The camaraderie. The $15 beers. The Power Play Dance. Gone. Sure, hockey the game returned, but the fan experience was wiped totally from the equation.
There are so many things that went missing for me when hockey "returned". Not being able to tailgate or otherwise meet up with friends is possibly the hardest one for me. Particularly in playoff season. I miss you bastards. Hours of pregame drinking and conversation. Games and food. #Shots4Goals. Reading the St. Louis Game Time rag. And drinking.
I mean, having hockey back was great, but if I’m honest, it was just hard getting re-invested in the game after the almost 5 month layoff. I missed going to the games; having the gameday experience. Hell, I even could get a little nostalgic over some of the gameday arena experience I didn’t enjoy (Country Roads anyone?) Credit to the NHL for trying to inject a little of each team into the bubble games, but it didn’t, and can’t, replace the live, in-person experience.
With the Covid shadow casting a pall over everything, the lack of emotional engagement from in person attendance and the flat-out-of-the-gate play of the team, it’s no wonder the disappointing end of the season ends with a meh for me.
Oh, and one last thing. The time off has given me some time to consider what I do with my time. Twitter was once a reasonable place for conversation with Blues fans when I broke in with Hitch’s Hat in 2013. It was a place where a joke, even the more risqué ones, could be told without offending 50% of the populace. A place where you could pose a question or state an opinion and get lively yet mostly respectful responses to the contrary. But not anymore.
I’ve had my fill of irrational arguments, personal attacks, false accusations and hate. And I’ll admit, I haven’t been innocent either. I’ve been provoked to respond in a less than rational manner on more occasions than I’d like to admit. I didn’t block a single person for 5 years. I’ve blocked 200 in the past 2.
So. What does this mean?
It means I quit. Sort of. Sorry to disappoint some, but this won’t be a "delete your account" moment.
As of today, Mr. Blues Hat is ramping down. I’ll still be around. I’ll probably still put out some content and post occasionally. Regular Joe stuff. Just not at the constant game-day level you’ve been accustomed to. I’ll leave the account open and still be able to interact with friends and the many of you who have "gotten it" throughout the years. But bad blood and the sheer amount of time spent to create as well as to post stuff live during games just has sucked the fun out of it. And if it’s not fun, why bother. It was a good run.
Apologies to those who have faithfully followed and enjoyed the account through the years. For the fans, it was worth all the hardship. Unfortunately, the haters finally sucked the joy out of providing that content. Hope we can still be friends.
As for next year, chuck the crystal balls. Covid is still running rampant. Hockey will be late. The team will be different. Each of US will be different trying to navigate these trying times. But real hockey will return. Eventually. With fans and everything. Life will return to something approaching the normal we used to love.
Until then, I’ll be around. Just less. Hit me up, I’ll respond. I’ll still blab about the team I love as it goes though the fall free agency period. So finish up watching the Covid games and baseball with fake fans in the stands. And if you want this shit disease to go away faster, wash your hands, social distance, and wear a mask around others.
See you around! Thanks for your support! And Let’s Go Blues!