“I saw (Kelly Chase) in the hallway crying and I almost started crying myself.”
And with that, you knew Vladimir Tarasenko got it. It’s a story he shared with reporters minutes after the St. Louis Blues clinched their first trip to the Stanley Cup final in nearly half a century. It’s a story of a generation succeeding where those who came before them didn’t, and that generation knowing what it means.
Tuesday night at the Enterprise Center saw a wave of emotion come crashing down onto a hockey game. You could spot the the jackets and jerseys just a little more weathered than most when the cameras cut to a crowd shot. They’d been worn for years. Even decades. This was a generational win. Kids watched the excitement of their moms and dads who had rooted for this moment only to be disappointed, year in and year out, for their entire lives.
A Stanley Cup final in St. Louis was the vague memory belonging to Grandma or Grandpa. It is uncharted territory for anyone who hasn’t lived a half century or more, and even for them, it didn’t matter in the first three years of the franchise’s existence the way it does now. The Blues’ last trip to these heights came when they were a novelty act. They played a Canadian game in the NHL’s southernmost outpost then.
In the years that have passed, names such as Plager, Federko, Chase and Hull made hockey part of our city’s culture. The Blues became part of who we are in many ways.
And those Canadians stuck around. As the city grew to love the Blues, their players loved us back by choosing to make this home when they could have returned to those far-flung northern towns where they were raised. They were part of what made St. Louis a hockey town.
But in all those years, they never won. Not even a conference title, let alone a cup. Right now they still haven’t, as far as Lord Stanley’s hardware is concerned. But for the first time since Nixon was president, the Soviet Union was a superpower, and computers were room-sized instead of something you can wear on your wrist, St. Louis and the Blues have a shot. And every fan and former player who has stuck it out with these “Cubs of hockey” as some call them, gets a night to shed a joyful tear.
Tuesday night, parents choked up in front of their kids, and retired NHL tough guys cried in hallways, watched by players who achieved what they could not. It was a cathartic release of emotion that represents 49 years of frustration. And now, there are only a few days to breathe. There is a Stanley Cup final to play, and maybe, just maybe, more tears to conjure.