Having the NHL All-Star Game here in St. Louis is going to be exciting, and everybody who will show up will have a good time.
When St. Louis hosted the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium on Jan. 2, 2017, it was so much fun. It was the Blues against the Chicago Blackhawks and it ended up being a hazy, kind of rainy day, but it was a great game and the energy in the city was just so exciting. It's fun when that happens, when everyone can get united around a singular event like that, and I think the All-Star Game at Enterprise Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS) will be the same way.
When I was growing up in St. Louis, the Blues' old arena was right off Highway 40 and the marquee would show what was in the arena that night. Maybe it was the Blues, maybe it was the Harlem Globetrotters, maybe a tractor pull. You just never knew what was going to be there.
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My dad was a spur-of-the-moment guy, and he worked off Highway 40. Every now and again I'd get dropped off at his office after school, we'd drive home together, and he'd just say, "Want to go to a hockey game? Blues are in town, 7 o'clock start." And I'd say, "Yeah, let's go." He would go and walk up to the box office and charm his way into some pretty good seats. I just remember it being so loud and smoky, but it was always fun.
It was a sport that I didn't play, that I didn't have enough money for, or access to ice. I lived in North County, so we didn't really have a rink near us. I could skate but not really well, and I just never had the access to coaching or any of that. But I really liked it because it was so unique. It was a sport that was fascinating because it wasn't played with a ball, you had to skate. Everybody can run and everyone can throw. But you have to learn how to skate. That's a whole skill set that most people don't have. So it was fascinating to watch.
With the Blues, it was like the Chicago Cubs: They got close enough on more than a few occasions before they finally won. We've had such good teams over the years with Brett Hull and Adam Oates and that whole squad with Curtis Joseph between the pipes and with Wayne Gretzky and that whole team.
We just felt snake-bit. It just seemed like every year something would go wrong or somebody would get hurt or something would happen at an inopportune time. It always seemed to happen to the Blues. And then for the absolute opposite narrative to carry through last season: the incredible resurgence and remarkable resiliency of that team. They were just so relentless, and they would never get down on themselves when they would lose. They would just bounce right back.
It was so impressive to watch, and it was so impressive to watch how they gelled as a team under Alex Pietrangelo's captaincy, with Jordan Binnington between the pipes, with Jake Allen backing him up, with guys who had been on the team for a long time, like Alex Steen and Colton Parayko. All those guys, you just saw them all stepping up. Vladimir Tarasenko had a hell of a playoff, Brayden Schenn had a hell of a playoff, Jaden Schwartz, all those guys. And Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist. Everybody contributed from top to bottom, and it just felt like, "Oh, this is definitely going to be our year. We're not going to lose." Then going to Boston's home ice and to just thoroughly dominate them was impressive.
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I've been around St. Louis for a couple of World Series wins for the Cardinals and I've been around St. Louis for a lot of exciting things, but the Cup win was pretty unique. I never really saw just how excited everybody was about one thing, and it was one of those things where people would stop and talk to a stranger on the street, or to the barista behind the coffee bar or whoever, like, "What did you think of that? That was great, right?" Everyone had an opinion, everyone was smiling, and everybody was happy. It really felt like a nice, unifying moment for the city.
I don't think the Blues will ever eclipse the Cardinals as the No. 1 draw in St. Louis. There's too much history and too much pageantry and what-have-you about the Cardinals. But I do think that we have a pretty solid nucleus of pretty ravenous fans, and that goes across all racial and ethnic and where'd-you-go-to-high-school boundaries. If you're a Blues fan, you're a Blues fan and it's pretty recognizable.
I had the good fortune to go, during one of the games during the Stanley Cup run, out in the parking lot and met up with some friends of mine. I just saw so many people out there tailgating and partying and getting ready, hosting their high school or college or whatever their little booster groups are. It was pretty cool, and it was great to see. That energy in the city was like no other.
The All-Star Game is a chance to showcase what a nice city we have and obviously, with this event, you get people from around the world. So, we'll have our friends from Canada and Sweden and Russia and Finland and everywhere else. Australia, maybe? Maybe we'll get a few [Nathan] Walker Aussie Rangers in town. That part of it is fun.
I hope people take advantage of our weird pizza and our weird food traditions and everything else. That's what it's all about. It's learning about a new place and hopefully making some friends and seeing some great hockey. I'm looking forward to being there, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else there, too.