The Journal Gazette
Friday, June 14, 2019 1:00 am

Blues fans finally cheer championship

Stanley Cup looked unlikely in January

JIM SALTER | Associated Press

ST. LOUIS – At age 100, Marge Kirchhoefer is among the oldest St. Louis Blues fans and now that they are Stanley Cup champions, she knows exactly how she will celebrate.

“It's too good to be true,” Kirchhoefer said. “I have friends and we all party together. We're going to drink champagne. I may get loaded! I don't care.”

There's a lot of that going around in St. Louis, now that the Blues have knocked off the Boston Bruins to win their first NHL championship since they arrived as an expansion team 52 years ago. The 4-1 win in Game 7 on Wednesday night in Boston set off a wild celebration that lasted well into Thursday morning.

And why not? After all, it has been a long wait for Blues fans and a difficult few years for St. Louis sports enthusiasts.

Until this year, the Blues had never won a game in the Stanley Cup Final. 

Since those long-ago days, St. Louis lost two NFL franchises – the Cardinals to Arizona in 1988, and the Rams to Los Angeles in 2016. To justify a move that appeared on the surface to violate league guidelines, an attorney for Rams owner (and Missouri native) Stan Kroenke wrote a scathing and widely disputed report that painted St. Louis as an economic hellhole for sports franchises.

St. Louis' beloved Cardinals won World Series titles in 1982, 2006 and 2011, but they've missed the playoffs three straight years and have been only so-so this season.

Fans filled the Enterprise Center even for road playoff games, just to be together and watch on the scoreboard screen. Bars and Ballpark Village, next to Busch Stadium, were packed with rabid Blues fans for every game. For Game 7, both the Enterprise Center and Busch Stadium were filled with fans watching the game on the scoreboard.

A parade Saturday will honor hockey's new champions and up to 1 million people are expected to line downtown streets, followed by a rally beneath the Gateway Arch.

Such a celebration seemed like only a pipe dream six months ago.

On Jan. 3, midway through the season, the Blues had the worst record in the NHL. Coach Mike Yeo was fired in November, and things weren't getting much better under Craig Berube.

Then a 25-year-old rookie goalie, Jordan Binnington, was called up and began to dominate. 

Kirchhoefer said she sometimes watches games with her grandson's family, a home where the Blues reign so supreme that they have a goal light in the living room. When the Blues score a goal, the light goes off and a siren sounds.

“It's just like being there,” Kirchhoefer said. “I get goose pimples when those games get so close. Oh my!”

Kirchhoefer, who worked as a petroleum company office manager before retiring in 1984, used to attend games with her late husband, Frank, who died in 2002. Her love of the team grew watching the enthusiasm of her grandson, who hunts for arrowheads and sells them to pay for tickets.

“This is once in a lifetime,” Kirchhoefer said. “They (the Blues) tried so hard, from being way on the bottom and coming up like that. It was wonderful.”

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