On May 27, when the puck dropped in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, that’s when I started to care about delay-of-game penalties (the worst), the opening chords of “Gloria” (the best) and all the crazy, wonderful things about this sport called hockey. This obsession was born only because I love my hometown that much.
Right off the bat, there are three things you should know about my hockey fandom:
I have never been to a Blues game. My mom went once. She was furnished with suite tickets by her job but sat shivering in the corner with mugs of hot chocolate for the entire game because she was cold.
Secondly, the first time I saw a person of color wearing Blues gear, it was Nelly rapping in front of a wall of rims in the “Country Grammar” video. So to me, Nelly enters the G.O.A.T. conversation with Tupac and Biggie for that singular groundbreaking moment.
Finally, I don’t understand how writing out “Let’s Go Blues” became so tedious that my fellow St. Louisans decided to streamline it to “LGB.”
Still, I have been unapologetically inhaling the fumes of this bandwagon: screaming at my television whenever the Blues turned yet another power play into a horror show and rooting hard for Vladimir Tarasenko as though I didn’t just have to Google his name for the correct spelling.
I wanted this so badly because I love St. Louis. When friends have mocked my newly discovered passion, I would tell them I wouldn’t care if it was the curling championships or the drywall-installing Final Four — if my city is on the front of the jersey, then I’m all for it.
They may have waited since 1967, but we needed this.
The hockey team is aptly named because our city has felt the blues for some time. In 2016, a billionaire told us we didn’t deserve the privilege of rooting for his laughingstock of an NFL franchise and essentially painted us as hobos camping near the Mississippi River who couldn’t afford to support three professional teams. Then the Los Angeles Rams, the second NFL franchise to abandon St. Louis in my lifetime, had the nerve to start winning games and make it to the Super Bowl this year; but it was oh-so-satisfying to watch them crumble against the New England Patriots. For that, Boston, I can almost forgive you for stealing the 2001 Super Bowl and the 2004 and 2013 World Series from us.
Also, our beloved baseball team, the Cardinals, have endured a three-year playoff drought, the longest in two decades. As a card-carrying member of the Best Fans in Baseball, to me, three years is greater than 52.
We have taken some hits off the field, as well. St. Louis made a bid to become the home of HQ2, to which Amazon replied: Nah, we good. Our tallest skyscraper has been a 44-story paperweight in downtown St. Louis since AT&T moved out in 2017. That’s two years and counting with an embarrassing, vacant tower dotting the city’s skyline. Even more shameful: Some well-meaning but misguided native went to Twitter to introduce the world to so-called “St. Louis-style” bagels. I don’t think we have quite recovered.
But beyond the sports failures and corporate disses, nothing quite captures the city’s misery like the way we have treated each other.
Pick a year, any year, and St. Louis will reside atop rankings as the murder capital of America. Though these statistics can be scrutinized and “well-actually”-ed by defenders of the city, there’s no getting around the staggering amounts of violence within our community. On Wednesday, the day of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, 16-year-old Myiesha Cannon died as a result of gun violence. Cannon was the fourth child in St. Louis to be shot and killed since Saturday.
Four children. Five days.
Most of these shootings happened in neighborhoods where the city has drawn its racial lines. St. Louis, for all the love I have for it, is still segregated. Our roots run deep in an us-vs.-them mentality; in 1916, residents overwhelmingly passed an ordinance that excluded anyone from moving to a block that had more than 75 percent of the other race. When that order was successfully defeated in court, segregationists set up covenants in which neighbors pledged not to sell their homes to black families.
Though I grew up a rabid sports fan, the sad truth is that I have never cheered for the Blues because I viewed them as their team. St. Louis has a way of teaching children about black and white.
So imagine my excitement ahead of Game 3 when I saw four (!) black people outside the Enterprise Center for the Blues rally.
It was a small splash of color in a cluster of white and blue but, for me, pretty significant. The Stanley Cup won’t end racism. Even so, I like to think when my oldest childhood friend, a redheaded, left-leaning activist named Wesley Buchek, dropped $20 to sit inside Busch Stadium for the Game 7 watch party, he was surrounded by people who may not have looked like him or shared his views, but that sea of St. Louisans were all united by blue.
So go ahead and laugh at those stale bagel memes. We won the Stanley Cup. Now it’s time for me to learn the lyrics of “Gloria.”