In the past, St. Louisans geared themselves up for the annual tradition of “which former Blue will win the Stanley Cup before the team does?” Fans were happy for those who got a chance to lift Lord Stanley’s chalice, but there was always an underlying sentiment of “when will it be the Blues’ turn?”
That turn finally came last year, so we don’t have to worry about being just a little bit sad that a former player will win the Cup before his former team anymore. Now fans can say “wow, it sure would be nice to see Paul Stastny win!” without worrying. It’s a great feeling, because Blues fans get attached to their favorites, and that attachment carries over to whenever they’re no longer a part of the franchise.
A better feeling is when a local boy makes good. Pat Maroon being a hometown hero last season was icing on the cake, but it’s also something more.
Back in 2016, metro St. Louis had five players drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft. TSN analyst Bob McKenzie was agog: “I’m blown away. Five guys from St. Louis minor hockey in the first round!”
And those five players weren’t exactly slouches, either: Matthew Tkachuk (No. 6 - Calgary Flames), Clayton Keller (No. 7 - Arizona Coyotes), Logan Brown (No. 11 - Ottawa Senators), Luke Kunin (No. 15 - Minnesota Wild) and Trent Frederic (No. 28 - Boston Bruins) all went in the first round. Matthew Tkachuk and Clayton Keller are two of the brightest young stars in the game right now.
The metro area’s minor hockey and junior teams are evidence of home grown talent - and support from alumni. Former Blues players like to make their way back to St. Louis after they retire, and they heavily involve themselves with the NHL franchise, youth outreach, and minor teams. This kind of involvement leads to growth in the programs, and further investment by the community and by the Blues continues that growth.
It should come with no surprise that, regardless of which of the final four playoff teams win the Cup, that another St. Louisan will have his name etched on it.
4️⃣ teams left in @NHL #StanleyCup Playoffs, 4️⃣ #AAABlues alumni playing. Good luck to Paul Stastny, @Benbishop30, @patmaroon, @scottmayfield2. pic.twitter.com/m5pZGIBKMe— St. Louis AAA Blues (@AAABlues) September 6, 2020
The more talent raised in local hockey systems, the more likely this is going to be going forward. The more t-rav eaten out of the bowl of the Stanley Cup, the better, even if the Blues aren’t that year’s victors.
If anyone in the hockey world remains who doubts St. Louis’ impact in the sport, they need to wake up and smell the brewery (or whatever one of our metro area’s delightful smells you prefer). The Blues’ Heartland of Hockey campaign may’ve failed to bring the World Juniors to St. Louis, but the reality of the city being the Heartland of Hockey will bring the Cup here instead. Whether it’s here for a day or for a summer, it’ll be because of the strength of local hockey programs.