Hull. Unger. Plager. Federko. Sutter. MacInnis. Berenson. These are just some of the names that represent the rich history and tradition of the St. Louis Blues. This organization is known for what most fans lovingly describe as a physical, hard working brand of hockey. Since taking the ice as part of the NHL’s 1967 expansion class, the Bluenote has captured the hearts of St. Louisans with its gritty tune, and the voices of legendary broadcasters like Dan Kelly helped spread that song to the entire Midwest and beyond listening on their AM radios on cold winter nights. Before 1967 the St. Louis Blues was only a song by W.C. Handy, but it’s now the name of an organization with a fan base as loyal as they come, gladly willing to accept new fans.
This organization did something most expansion teams in any league only dream of in its first years. In the springs of 1968, ’69 and ’70 the Note competed in the Stanley Cup Finals, lead by head coach and future Hockey Hall of Famer, Scotty Bowman. No championships came from these appearances but a love affair with fans was born. The Blues former home, the Arena, Old Barn, or the Checker Dome as it was known at various times, became known as one of the toughest places in the league to play. Standing room crowds sang “When the Saints go Marching In” celebrating goals, clapped their hands and stomped their feet, making the steep upper deck seats of the arena sometimes slightly sway.
In 42 seasons the Blues have won 7 division titles, a President’s Trophy for most points in the league during the 1999-2000 season, along with individual players and coaches earning many awards for their achievements. At the end of the 1968-1969 season, Glen Hall and Jacques Plante were co-recipients of the Vezina trophy, as the best goaltenders in the league. Brett Hull who captured Blues fans hearts and the league’s attention with his scoring prowess and personality in the late 1980s and into the 90’s earned the League MVP in the 1990-1991 season. At the end of the decade, defenseman Chris Pronger was named league MVP, and earned the Norris trophy as the league’s best defenseman in 2000. But one of the accomplishments the Blues are known for even outside of hockey, is the team’s consecutive playoff appearances streak. From the 1979-1980 season to 2003- 2004 the team made the playoffs, 25 seasons in a row.
In the Arena and the Blues current home, the Scottrade Center, fans have cheered on true legends of hockey. Some like franchise scoring leader (1,073 points) Bernie Federko, player and later coach Brian Sutter, and the always honest, entertaining and supremely talented Brett Hull are synonymous with the Bluenote. While other greats like Jacques Plante, Scott Stevens, Grant Fuhr, Brendan Shanahan and even the great one himself Wayne Gretzky have had stops in St. Louis, hearing fans chant “Let’s Go Blues!” over and over again, and counting out each goal scored with the Towel Guy. But being a Blues fan is great, because we appreciate and remember every player on our team. Names like the Cavallini brothers (Gino and Paul), Geoff Courtnall, and Eric Boguniecki will live on in Blues fans conversations, and forum posts.
It’s obvious many of the clubs players have appreciated the loyalty and support fans showed them while they played, and have stayed in the St. Louis area, even after hanging their skates up. Defenseman Rick Zombo who played with the Blues in the early 90’s is now an assistant hockey coach at Lindenwood University in St. Charles. Enforcer Tony Twist, a fan favorite who instilled fear in many teams around the league still resides in the area, operating Twister’s Iron Bar and Saloon. Also there’s Kelly Chase in the Blues radio booth doing color commentary, and Hall of Famer Bernie Federko on the TV side with commentary. Again Blues fans embrace our players, and don’t let go once they retire.
Part of the reason fans don’t forget players, is because the organization doesn’t either. This was just recently evident at Brett Hull’s Hall of Fame induction celebration ceremony. He put together his all time Blues roster, and Hulls invitation along with front office efforts, allowed fans the opportunity to cheer on past players like Guy Carbonneau, Phil Housley and Curtis Joseph. Another great example is The Fourteen Fund in honor of Doug Wickenheiser, who wore number 14 as a Blue and passed away from lung and brain cancer in 1999. The fund helps support charitable efforts in and around St. Louis. Also former Blues are present in the clubs front office and staff. Hall of Fame Defenseman Al MacInnis is Vice President of Hockey Operations, former Blues goaltender Rick Wamsley is a goaltending coach with the team, and Bob Plager who skated with the team in its earliest years, and later moved behind the bench, now works in a Community Relations aspect for the team and often offers insight as an analyst on radio broadcasts.
Under the current ownership of the Dave Checketts group and leadership by club President John Davidson, the Blues are headed in a great direction on and off of the ice. Young forwards T.J. Oshie, David Perron and Patrik Berglund are all proving why they were first round picks, with their offensive creativity and tenacity. 2006 first overall draft pick Erik Johnson is back developing his wicked slap shot from the blue line, after missing the entire 2008-2009 season with a knee injury. These young players mixed with veterans Keith Tkachuk, Brad Boyes, Andy McDonald, Barret Jackman and Chris Mason last season showed why now is such a great time to be a Blues fan. This team went on a remarkable 21-7-6 run from the beginning of February through the end of the season, earning a playoff spot for the first time in the post 2004-2005 CBA/Lockout era. Last season’s run brought to light the talent this squad posses, and how bright the future for the team and fans truly is.
Being a St. Louis Blues fan takes dedication, heart, passion and patience. Lord Stanley’s Cup has yet to parade down Market Street on a warm St. Louis June day. But, that longing to see a Cup banner raised to the rafters is what keeps Blues fans going. When the Blues do win a league championship, you’ll want to be with the rest of us singing, “When the Saints go Marching In,” and trust me, oh Lord will you want to be in that number, cheering and chanting ‘Let’s Go Blues.’
- by Slyvia, aka St. Blues Chica
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