Ryan O’Reilly, Blues center, MVP of the Stanley Cup Finals and native of Clinton, Ontario, said during the party with a quarter-million of the closest friends downtown Saturday, “This is a city of amazing hockey fans, amazingly nice people and amazing drinkers,” thus making St. Louis sound like a Canadian city.
We could only hope, since being Canadian would mean national health care, a government that wouldn’t stand for half the city looking like a bombed-out war zone, and no invitation by Donald Trump to visit the White House. Because a Canadian team won the NBA championship, there’s no danger the Toronto Raptors will have to worry about the White Nationalist in Chief serving them cold burgers and fries in the White House dining room.
But because the Blues are an American team, they probably will get the invitation. They’ll probably accept it. They shouldn’t.
St. Louis is a city of immigrants. The Blues are a team of immigrants. The taxpayers of the city who floated $69 million in bonds to renovate the Enterprise Center for the Blues, and who own the Enterprise Center, are 54 percent minorities.
Those reasons, plus common decency, should be enough for the Blues to ignore an invitation from the most racist chief executive this country has experienced since Jefferson Davis tried a hostile takeover in 1861.
It won’t be enough, for a few reasons.
For starters (sorry Grant Fuhr and Ryan Reaves), hockey is a white man’s sport. And white males are the hot, pulsing center of Trump’s diseased universe. That having been said, I have no idea what the politics of any of the Blues players might be.
We do, however, know the politics of the Blues ownership. The Blues are owned by an on-paper entity called SLB Acquisition Holdings LLC. It was founded and is headed by Tom Stillman. Stillman is CEO of Summit Distributing, whose business (this is St. Louis, after all) is beer wholesaling. Stillman has a long track record of donating to the GOP and its candidates, from the Republican National Committee to former U.S. senators from Missouri, Jim Talent and Kit Bond, both Republicans, and current U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, also a Republican.
It isn’t only Stillman’s financial pedigree that’s Republican. Stillman is a son-in-law of former Sen. John Danforth, the Episcopal priest who’s heir to the Ralston-Purina fortune and whose mentorship and support gave us both one of the worst U.S. Supreme Court Justices of the last 50 years in Clarence Thomas, and admitted Christian nationalist Sen. Josh Hawley. Danforth himself is also a minority owner of the Blues.
So we have an all-white team with conservative Republican ownership. Then, we have the fan base.
You can never know what the majority of fans believe politically, but there are some clues. Despite a small group of enthusiastic African-American hockey fans in St. Louis (I’m looking at you, @SharkFu and @TonyX on Twitter), Blues fans specifically and hockey fans in general are overwhelmingly white, and often working class, which is Trump’s sweet spot.
Many cops are hockey fans. The St. Louis police “union,” the St. Louis Police Officers Association, held a watch party for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to raise money for a soon-to-be-ex-cop facing both criminal assault charges and a number of police brutality civil lawsuits. After the Ferguson uprising, the only public sightings of Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson officer who killed Michael Brown, were after-the-fact reports of Wilson surfacing briefly at Blues games.
So add all that together — an all-white organization, conservative Republican owners, and an overwhelmingly white, pro-cop, demographically conservative fan base — and you can pretty well bet that the feel-good Blues story is going to end badly, with the Blues invited to the White House, accepting, and showing up for gristly burgers with the racist depraved authoritarian-in-chief.
Probably the only mystery will be whether any individual Blues players refuse to go once the invitation’s issued.
Don’t count on it, but then, this team has surprised us before.