It Sucks to be a St. Louis Blues fan!
To mark the centennial of the founding of the National Hockey League in 1917, fans were invited to vote online to determine what the greatest moment during those 100 years was. Their verdict was Mario Lemieux’s five-goal performance against the New Jersey Devils on New Year’s Eve in 1988. Lost in the fanfare of this outcome is the fact that center Red Berenson actually scored six goals in a single game for the St. Louis Blues in 1968. Yet, Berenson’s feat elicited nary a blip on the meter when it came to the voting. Somehow this is fitting. Admit it, Blues fans. The St. Louis Blues are the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL and have been for 50-plus years. Blues fans, it sucks to be you.
A Mountain of Evidence
Want more evidence than that? No problem! Coming in at number two in the voting was Bobby Orr’s iconic overtime goal that he scored in game seven of the 1970 Stanley Cup finals against (you guessed it) the St. Louis Blues. Still not convinced? One of the candidates for the honor that made it to the semifinals of the voting was Steve Yzerman’s game seven double overtime playoff goal for the Detroit Red Wings in 1996 that was scored against (drumroll please) the St. Louis Blues. Coincidence? Not a chance.
Three Strikes, You’re Out?
Throughout the history of the franchise, the Blues have been a team that has set a tone of high expectation invariably leading to crushing disappointment for itself and its loyal fandom that no other NHL team can match. They are the first and only NHL team to make it to the Stanley Cup finals in its first year of existence (1968). The series was lost to the Montreal Canadiens. They are also the only team to make it to the Stanley Cup finals in their second and third years as well, again losing both times. The Blues have never returned to the Stanley Cup finals since and, consequently, have never won a Stanley Cup. Ever.
The Blues made the playoffs for an NHL third-best ever consecutive season streak of 25 straight years from 1979/80 through 2003/04. Throughout that entire quarter-century, they never once made it to the Stanley Cup finals. In the history of the team after 1970, they have made it to the conference finals only three times and have lost in each instance.
Try, Try Again
During the 1990/91 season, the Blues were loaded with offensive firepower led by star right-winger and future hall-of-famer Brett Hull. Hull scored goals at such a frantic pace that anticipation began to build that he might even somehow eclipse the single-season record of 92 that had been set by Wayne Gretzky during the 1981/82 season. Naturally, Hull came up short with a total of 86 and the Blues, despite finishing in second place in the old Norris Division that year, were gunned down in the second-round of the playoffs against their old nemesis, the Minnesota North Stars, in six games. Ironically, Hull later won two Stanley Cups, the first with the Texas incarnation of the transient North Stars (Dallas Stars) in 1999 and, much to the utter distaste of Blues fans everywhere, the despised Detroit Red Wings in 2002.
Going All In
During the 1995/96 season, Blues management made a bold move aimed toward winning their first-ever Stanley Cup when they acquired the great Wayne Gretzky himself from the Los Angeles Kings. Although they finished strong with the Great One on their roster, their dreams of finally hoisting Lord Stanley’s silver chalice were dashed once again when Nick Kypreos of the Toronto Maple Leafs took out the Blues’ five-time Stanley Cup champion goaltender, Grant Fuhr, with a controversial hit in the first round that sidelined the netminder for the rest of the playoffs. They ended up taking the series from the Leafs but lost in seven games in OT to the Red Wings on (what else?) Yzerman’s classic OT goal.
A Tough Act to Follow
To be a fan of this team is unlike any fan experience elsewhere in the league. To say that Blues fans are jaded is a gross understatement. They are indeed cynical beyond any normal sense of the word. However, when one considers the history of the team against the backdrop of the city and the inevitable comparisons to their eminently-successful Major League Baseball counterparts, the St. Louis Cardinals, the underlying reasons for their cynicism become painfully clear.
Accept Failure, Expect Failure
Blues fans, although wildly enthusiastic and supportive of the team (Scottrade Center is an ongoing sellout for them), actually expect to be ultimately disappointed by them. Time and again this prophecy has fulfilled itself and, just like Pavlov’s famous dog, they react according to the way they have been conditioned to react. In many ways, this tradition has created a culture of mediocrity if not downright failure that has infused itself into the very fabric of the franchise, the management, and players in addition to the fans. Blues fans not only accept failure, they expect it!
A Case in Point
So, you think this is an overstatement perhaps? Witness the debacle that took place on Wednesday night when the Blues took on the Nashville Predators in a divisional battle at Bridgestone Arena in Music City. St. Louis came out like a team on a mission and the Predators appeared to be on their heels as the Blues outskated, out-checked, outworked and outscored Nashville to build a 3-0 lead after two periods. All they had to do was keep playing their game and hold on for the win, right? After all, their current season record when leading after two periods was a stellar 26-0-1! Things were looking good for the boys in blue as the 3-0 lead was still holding up with less than 11 minutes to play in regulation. Surely this one was in the bag, right? Well, as if on cue and in a scenario that was way too familiar for any Blues fan to ignore, the Predators scored on Calle Jarnkrok’s follow-up of a rebound against Blues goalie Carter Hutton at 9:04 of the period.
The Inevitable Collapse
OK. Still up 3-1, no cause for panic, yes? Well, it appeared that the Blues had a chance to get Jarnkrok’s tally back when they went on the power play a few minutes later. But alas, Alexander Steen mishandled the puck in the neutral zone, the Preds poured across the blue line on an odd-man rush and Austin Watson netted the shorthanded goal. The score was suddenly 3-2 with 5:27 left in regulation. Then, much to the absolute and subliminally-expected horror of every Blues fan who was watching or listening, Watson scored again on yet another odd-man break as the penalty expired and the game was knotted up at 3-3 just like that. It is a fair assessment to state that Blues fans everywhere (and perhaps the players as well?) knew in their hearts how this one would end.
The Bitter End
As always it seems, the prophecy was fulfilled as Filip Forsberg was somehow awarded a penalty shot on what appeared to be just an ordinary hooking call against Jaden Schwartz in overtime. Of course, Forsberg rifled his shot past Hutton for the game-winner. Actually, the game didn’t seem to abruptly end as much as it was suddenly put out of its misery in the minds and hearts of Blues fans across the globe.
A Microcosm of their History
This game against the Predators would seem to be a microcosm of not only the current season perhaps but of the entire history and legacy of the St. Louis Blues as a franchise. Someday, hopefully, and mercifully, the Blues will turn things around and defy tradition by winning the Stanley Cup. At some point, their loyal fans deserve as much. In the meantime, it does indeed suck to be a Blues fan in a way that no other team’s fan base can relate.
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