DOWNTOWN – Thousands of people poured into the streets of downtown Wednesday night to celebrate the St. Louis Blues’ first Stanley Cup victory in 52 seasons on the ice. Despite the major party atmosphere, the drunken disorder often associated with championship celebrations in other cities didn’t take place, according to police.
What did occur was an outpouring of joy and emotion many onlookers believed surpassed anything seen before in association with a sporting event. The Cardinals’ consistent, almost expected success, and the Rams’ relatively short stay, seem to make the emotions pale in comparison.
“We are the champs,” a fan identifying himself as Juan screamed joyously outside the Enterprise Center. “I’ve been waiting since I was 11 for this! And we got it! We got it!”
“I’ve been waiting all my life! Best team in the world! Gateway to the best,” another man screamed outside of Busch Stadium.
Those two venues were the centers for the excitement. The Blues put tickets on sale Monday afternoon for Wednesday’s night’s watch party, and some 18 thousand seats were sold out in under 10 minutes. That’s when the Cardinals stepped in, offering to open Busch Stadium for an additional venue. 25 thousand more filed in there.
By game’s end, more people were pouring into downtown, with traffic at the Ninth Street off-ramp from US 40/Interstate 64 backing all the way up and onto the highway. People couldn’t resist the chance to sing and chant in the streets.
The explosion of emotion got an early start, when the Blues, a heavy underdog to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, took a two-goal lead in the first period. They went on to win 4-1, and fans in the stands of both St. Louis sports venues were delirious in their seats.
High fives and hugs among strangers were the rule amid the din of cheers as team Captain Alex Pietrangelo hoisted the Stanley Cup. He was the first member of the St. Louis Blues ever to raise the trophy.
As fans poured outside, you could see excitement and emotion, particularly when looking to those with a few gray hairs.
Kurt Drummond, in his 50s, was in the crowd with his daughter.
“I’ve been waiting a long time,” he said. “I started coming back in ’78. Used to come with my dad. Come with my neighbors down to the old arena. We’d go to Bowling for Dollars before the game and then watch the Blues play.
When asked if he had ever thought he’d see a Stanley Cup victory, Drummond answered, “Yeah, but I didn’t know how old I would be.”
The memories of games with his parents were bittersweet. Drummond said both his mother and father passed away this past year.
“He missed it,” he said, talking about his father. “Along with my daughter and me both, we were both crying. It’s an emotional thing for a world championship and it’s something you go through your childhood looking at and it’s finally here. It’s been a long time.”
Keith Bunton found the excitement to be contagious.
“I think it’s awesome, man. Some people waited 49 years. We moved back to St. Louis after the military, and to get this. We’ve seen the Rams! We’ve seen the Cardinals! Now we’ve got the Blues! It’s a sweep now! We’re good!”
Police said not a single arrest had been made, despite the mass of humanity in the streets.
You could see how it was avoided. People from all walks of life, all parts of town, all genders and ethnicities were engaged in what looked like a giant “group hug.” That, to many, was what stood out.
“I think the best thing about this is it brings the whole city together,” Emily Figert said. “I mean everyone’s out here, going insane! It’s amazing! Amazing!”