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NHL Winter Classic

Winter Classic postcard

NHL.com's Shawn Roarke privileged to be able to witness spectacular game at Busch Stadium

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

ST. LOUIS -- The Winter Classic is over.

Like all major events, the ending comes abruptly and unexpectedly, often accompanied by a bit of sadness.

Everyone involved invests so much for so long into making these marquee events happen that it is shocking when the finish line is reached.

It is a privilege to know how much work across the board went into making this Winter Classic a success. I have colleagues, not only with NHL.com, but throughout the League office, who invested their substantial energies into making this happen.

For all of us, the ultimate thank-you is the memories that are created on these big stages. In our own small way, we know our efforts have helped make a sliver of the League's rich history possible.

Personally, I will remember so much from my past five days in this wonderful city.

The moments I spent eavesdropping on the St. Louis Blues alumni when they practiced on Saturday, viciously, but playfully, cutting each other up, were amazing.

Watching the Blues players press against the glass on Saturday waiting to go on the ice for their practice session at Busch Stadium, a scene replayed at every youth practice in every ice rink everywhere, was probably the most singular memory I will have.

The smiles of the Chicago Blackhawks when they played a wild game of 10-on-10 shinny during their practice session illustrated that the outdoor experience never gets old.

Monday, it was the players marching out single file for introductions, pyrotechnics bordering the path they walked, almost as if they were rock stars taking the stage. It was also looking out past the center field wall and not seeing the Gateway Arch. It was supposed to be there, the ultimate framing apparatus for the rink, but it was obscured, often completely by the fog that hovered just above the stadium, the result of rainy weather that had the common decency to stay away long enough to get the game in.

It was also the instantaneous, joyous roar that followed Patrik Berglund's goal, which tied the game 1-1 in the second period. It proved to be the invitation to get the crowd to invest fully in what they were witnessing. What followed was among the best hours of hockey drama I have had the joy of watching.

St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko told me that the Blues players felt like they could have played another three periods because they didn't want the special feeling of the event to end. I agree, but it is not meant to be.   

Tuesday, I will board a plane and head home, soon turning my attention to the 2017 All-Star Game in Los Angeles, which arrives at the end of the month.

Until then, thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed the Winter Classic as much as I did.

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