The St. Louis Blues have their share of fans. While not well known to the Eastern Conference faithful, the crew from St. Louis have quietly climbed the ladder of the West, becoming a very overlooked playoff contender in the process.
While the Blues have two Finals appearances in their history, most fans aren’t old enough to remember them. The Blues have become immortalized for all the wrong reasons, having been the victim of Bobby Orr’s goal in 1970. Since then, the Blues have developed the reputation of being a middle tier team…tough to play against, never good enough to win the big prize.
I knew a girl in high school who adored the Blues. They were her team, and she watched every Blues game religiously. She and I were always at odds over which team was better…my Penguins or her Blues. She was in love with former goalie Vincent Riendeau. He could do no wrong. Brett Hull would be her future husband, she often proclaimed. Adam Oates would be the best man.
I remember the good-natured ribbing I gave her when the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup. She had been convinced the Blues would finally rocket to the Cup after finishing second overall in the league in 1990-91. Instead, they fell victim to the Minnesota North Stars’ onslaught that spring, being eliminated in the second round. She insisted that one day, the Blues would win the Cup, and she would be there to enjoy it. But she would be disappointed in 1992, as again the Pens would take the Cup, and in 1993, when the Habs won it all.
Tragically, Andrea wouldn’t see the 1995 playoffs. Her life was cut short in the fall of 1994, leaving behind a deep hole in my life and in the lives of all who knew her. But her love for the Blues has never left me, and even though the Blues are not my team, I love to see them do well. If Pittsburgh couldn’t win the Stanley Cup, I kept secretly hoping the Blues would take the honor. When Wayne Gretzky suited up for the Blues in 1996, it looked to be their year. It looked even more so when they took the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings to seven games in Round 2. I could only watch with a secret sadness as Steve Yzerman ended their Cup run with his famous rocket in double overtime that beat Jon Casey. It had only been two years since her passing, and I made no secret that I wanted the Blues to win that year.
Andrea taught me about team loyalty. She had stuck with the Blues even when they weren’t doing well. She defended them staunchly, and found some solace in the 1991 NHL Awards, when Brett Hull was awarded the Hart trophy. Forget Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky; her superstar was the Golden Brett. She always insisted that he would be a Stanley Cup champion.
Five years after her death, Brett Hull would indeed become a champion with the Dallas Stars. I often wondered what her reaction to her beloved Hull winning in another jersey would be.
Though time has passed, the memory of Andrea in her St. Louis #16 jersey will live on. She wore that jersey with every Blues win. She embodied what being a fan of a certain team was. Now, 18 years after her passing, we still wait for the Blues’ first Stanley Cup. Is this the season? They have topnotch goaltending, tight defense, and a great coach. After several seasons of mediocrity (in which she would be pulling her hair out watching), the Blues seem on the cusp of greatness. Coach Ken Hitchcock is a proven winner, and has the Blues playing the best hockey they have been playing in a while.
Should the Blues be the next Stanley Cup winner, they will have an invisible spectator with them on the ice. Andrea lives on in my life through the memories I have of her…and through her love of the St. Louis Blues. She was an indomitable spirit, one who loved hockey, and one whose passion for the game will never be extinguished, even in death. She made all the fans around her better, as she not only knew how to win graciously, but also how to take losing in stride.
Even though I am a Penguins fan at heart, I will always have a small spot for the Blues in my heart. Her memory lives on with each St. Louis victory. As her friends left behind, we are left waiting for the Blues to win a Stanley Cup.