The St. Louis Blues Are More than Just a Team

The St. Louis Blues’ road to the Stanley Cup meant more to me than just my team winning their first ever NHL championship. It signified and honored a bond I shared with my mother who passed away last year. I have been a diehard Blues fan since I was a kid and discovered the great sport of hockey. I have my mom to thank for that.

My Background with Hockey

Although I was born and raised in South Florida, my parents were from St. Louis, Missouri. My mom was a huge St. Louis Cardinals and Blues fan.  At the time I started watching hockey, the Florida Panthers didn’t exist. My siblings and I adopted the Blues as our own and ran with that. We tried to catch any and every game we could via TV or radio. I was instantly hooked. I realized hockey was my sport of choice. 

I wanted to be a hockey journalist, so I pursued a degree in Mass Communications and Journalism at Florida International University. After a partial internship with the Panthers in the 2000-01 season, I moved to New York City for an internship with Sports Illustrated.  

After completing that, I didn’t pursue my planned career but I remained a passionate hockey fan. Through thick and thin, ups and downs in my family, we could always connect over sports. Whether it was the Cardinals or the Blues, it was our outlet for discussion. Clearly, we managed through many painful seasons as Blues fans. 

Blues’ 2018-19 Season

Fast-forward to 2018-19; the Blues were in the cellar in December and no one thought they had a chance. Personally, it was the toughest time as a Blues fan for me. Still grieving my mom’s death and just having lost my dog, I couldn’t find much passion in one of the few things I loved…hockey. With the help of my siblings and friends, I found solace in watching the Blues pick themselves up and win games. 

Oskar Sundqvist Ivan Barbashev St. Louis Blues
Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Following the New Year, I did the best I could to get through the rough times. But a new year meant a clean slate. The Blues followed suit. They started winning games and showing up on the radar. Next thing I know, they won 11 games in a row and were digging their way out of the basement. 

Not only did I use their victories as an uplifting source, I thrived on them. I was lucky enough to attend the Colorado Avalanche/Blues matchups in Denver (where I reside now) and really immersed myself in their energy. As everyone in Denver was celebrating the Avalanche advancing to the playoffs, I was quietly rooting on my Blues. 

After they beat the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, I was elated. But we’ve been down that road before. I was just trying to live in the moment. I knew my mom wouldn’t want me to wallow in sorrow, so I used my intensity for the Blues to get my mind off my new life. 

Following their success over the Dallas Stars in the second round, hope for something good in my life emerged. My siblings and I started discussing the possibilities of a Stanley Cup Final series. Not to get ahead of ourselves, we passionately watched the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks. 

Pat Maroon Ben Bishop
St. Louis Blues left wing Pat Maroon greets Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

I missed watching a couple of games live but was able to watch Game 6 of that series. The Blues shut out the Sharks in Game 5, so I was feeling pretty pumped about the prospect of winning the series that night.

After the Blues won the game and the realization of them going to the Stanley Cup Final set in, I was immersed in emotion. Not only had they just won the right to the final round, it was the first time I would witness this in my lifetime. 

History Was Made

It was then I decided I would fly to St. Louis for one of the games at the Enterprise Center. I booked a flight and hotel for Game 4. My sister (who lived in South Florida at the time) was originally going to meet me but couldn’t make it at the last minute. Tickets were outrageously expensive and I didn’t plan on spending that much money to actually go to the game. 

I was content with being part of the excitement at the watch party in downtown St. Louis. Memories of my mom, how short life can be and a once in a lifetime experience pushed me to pull the trigger at the last minute and buy a ticket to the game. 

My seat was in the high upper section, but I was there. The vibe and energy were pouring out of every fan in the building and around it. I was able to duck into the standing area on the lower level and watch the Blues’ win from there. It was epic. It was an adrenaline rush like nothing I’d ever experienced in my life. 

St. Louis Blues Enterprise Center 2019 Playoffs
St. Louis Blues, Enterprise Center, 2019 Playoffs (Colleen Flynn/THW)

The celebration outside the Enterprise Center after the game was memorable. Fans flooded the streets with cheers and chants “Let’s Go Blues” and singing ‘Gloria’ (a song my mom liked very much). I could feel my mom’s presence with me the entire game and after. I remembered her telling me about her first Blues game at the old St. Louis Arena with my dad and how exciting a live hockey game was to experience. It’s indescribable when you witness history as I did at the first Blues home win in a Stanley Cup Final. (from ‘Blues knot up Stanley Cup final after chaotic Game 4,’ New York Post, 06/04/2019)

Back in Denver, I watched Game 5 at a local hockey bar with other fans from a group I am a part of on Facebook named the “Rocky Mountain Bluenotes.” It was great to be able to celebrate the win with other Blues fans. My sister called me immediately after the game to plan a trip for me back to St. Louis for Game 6. I knew neither of us could afford to go to the game but to be in the city with the energy was all we needed. 

Back to the Lou

I arrived in St. Louis late afternoon but the watch party on Market Street was packed. Knowing I wouldn’t gain admittance, my sister and I went to a local watch party. It turned out to be the better move since the result of the game was not celebratory. Even though the Bruins blew out the Blues in a 5-1 victory, the comradery of the fans was still solid and overwhelming. 

Enterprise Center Al MacInnis
Enterprise Center, Al MacInnis statue (Colleen Flynn/THW)

I returned to the hockey bar in Denver with my Rocky Mountain Bluenotes fans to watch Game 7 and can’t describe in words how I felt after they won. Dropped to my knees, tears pouring out of my eyes and the elation of a Stanley Cup championship hit me with the fact my mom, the most important person in my life and best friend, wasn’t with me to celebrate. I couldn’t call her to hoot and holler on the phone. I couldn’t Facetime her to share in the victory. It was the most joyous occasion since she’d passed and the most depressing. 

My siblings and I called each other to celebrate the win and appreciate the memory of our mom as a part of it. One of my brothers and my sister went to St. Louis for the parade but I couldn’t make it. I was on the phone with my sister the entire time and watched on TV as they awaited the arrival of the Stanley Cup champs on stage at the Arch.

The entire experience of the Blues winning the Stanley Cup reminded me of where my love for hockey started and enabled me to heal a bit remembering my mom as a part of that process. Every Blues shirt I own was bought by my mom. She made me the hockey fan I am and encouraged me to follow my dreams as a hockey writer. The game isn’t just a sport to me. It’s a part of my life. From my family to my career, I share a bond with the game and those close to me here and gone.