DOWNTOWN – It is a story that makes a movie like Disney’s “The Mighty Ducks” seem like a documentary. It is the stuff of fiction and most certainly should not be believed.
If you were a Hollywood producer, would this sound a little too cheesy for you? A pro hockey team can’t get out of its own way. They’re the worst in the league. So they fire the coach and replace him with one of the all-time bullies in the history of hockey. He’s in the top 10 all-time, not for goals but for penalty minutes.
So the new coach with a fighting problem comes in and promotes a goalie no one has ever heard of. He’s been in the minor leagues his entire career, and was so low on the totem pole that they actually had loaned him to another team. He wasn’t even good enough to be in the minors for his own club!
So, the night before the no-name goalie, who by the way carries a chip on his shoulder, starts his first game, some of the boys go out to a bar. They meet fans of an opposing team and fall in love with an ’80s pop song that they decide should be their theme. The no-name goalie wins his first start the next night, the song becomes the staple after every win, and they go on to make a run to the playoffs.
When they finally get to the championship, they meet the big, bad, established champion whom their old captain decided to go play for. The series goes seven games, and they win in the end.
This utterly unbelievable tale, of course, is that of the St. Louis Blues, which culminated, Wednesday, with a wild celebration in downtown St. Louis.
In the midst of the jubilant scene on Clark Street, you could see glimpses of the real-life suffering the fan base had endured for 52 seasons. All you had to do was seek out the gray hair.
Fan after fan uttered the same phrases:
“I can’t believe it.”
“I never thought I would see this.”
“It doesn’t seem real.”
There were tales of parents who took them to games when they were kids. Parents now deceased who never got to experience the elation that ran through the streets like blood through a beating heart.
Eighteen thousand people poured out of the Enterprise Center after paying $20 to watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on a big screen.
An additional 25,000 who couldn’t get tickets to that event flooded Busch Stadium and endured a first-period thunderstorm to see if this fairy tale could come true.
In the end they were rewarded with the most improbable of championships. It was the end result of a tale no one should or even could believe. And yet it seemed, in a way, appropriate.
This team, which for a half-century tortured its fan base, finally won the big one by following a storyline that is totally implausible. It’s something those flooding the streets of downtown will tell their grandkids about some day. The grandkids will probably say something like, “Sure, Grandpa. If you’re going to make up a story, at least make it believable.”
George Sells is an Emmy Award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of experience in news. He has spent the last decade on the St. Louis media scene, working for KTVI Fox 2, HEC Media, and more recently as a host for KMOX Radio. His wife of twenty years, Julie, was born and raised in St. Louis. They have two kids and a dog.