ST. LOUIS -- The passion of St. Louis Blues fans is amazing to me, and their showing Saturday was the latest testament.
I spent part of Friday talking to Blues alumni about what waited for them Saturday at the 2017 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game, and they spoke of the loyalty and passion the fans have brought to the franchise the past five decades.
Brett Hull said on Friday that St. Louis would always be a baseball town and the Cardinals would always be king, but that does not take away from what Blues fans bring to the table.
He was proven right on Saturday as hockey moved outdoors for the first of a three-day celebration at Busch Stadium, the home of the Cardinals.
The passion was on full display all day.
The NHL.com crew got to the stadium two hours before puck drop and the area was already awash in fans taking part in The PreGame, an outdoor hockey-themed entertainment center. The line for the PreGame was a block long and almost every fan was wearing some shade of blue, most advertising their allegiance with a personalized jersey or t-shirt.
Inside the stadium it was a sea of blue and yellow, and the crowd, more than 40,000, never stopped cheering for its heroes or booing its most hated rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, throughout the game, which St. Louis won 8-7.
The makeover of Busch Stadium for the Winter Classic, which will take place on Monday, is spectacular.
The layout of the new stadium, which opened in 2006, was changed to make better use of the St. Louis skyline and its signature feature, the Gateway Arch. The result is stunning. The Arch looms over the centerfield wall, flanked by the downtown core's modest collection of skyscrapers.
The effect is even more pronounced for the Winter Classic, with the ice rink running between first and third base and the representation of a guitar bisecting the playing surface. It is a stunning visual and proved to be the perfect backdrop for the start of a three-day party.