OK. So I know this is a Cardinals blog and you all come here for Cardinal content - or to see cardinalsgifs amazing work, one of the two.
In our Birds On The Black group chat on Twitter this morning, though, I was implored by one of the other writers who isn't a Blues fan to write up a piece on "what this all means."
So that's the question.
What does the Blues winning the 2018-19 Stanley Cup mean to me?
I was born in 1980 to a pair of teacher parents, one of which had a tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals in the early 1970s and ended up throwing batting practice for them prior to beating both cancer and multiple sclerosis. The other parent was the huge hockey fan. You see, my mother's maiden name is Unger. Unger is my middle name. This is Unger as in Garry. Yes, Garry with two Rs. If you're a Blues fan, you've probably heard of the guy. Now, I don't know Garry. I have never met him. I believe my mom said that they are something ridiculously distantly related - 7th cousins or so? (It might be 3rd or 4th cousins, but ya know...once you're that far removed, it's like you're barely related.) But we are, somehow.
I grew up with two loves: Cardinals baseball (about which I can sit back and be mostly analytical and level-headed while watching) and Blues hockey (about which there is a zero point zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, one percent chance of me pretending to be anything less than full-fledged, blue-goggled passionate).
What does the Blues winning the 2018-19 Stanley Cup mean to the city?
The St. Louis sports fan base is a passionate one. One of the most passionate I've ever run across. We don't have the hatred of Yankees-Red Sox when it comes to Cardinals-Cubs. We don't have the pig-clad Redskin or spike-studded Raider or cheese-headed Packer fan gear to make it known to the world. You see, we would probably have stupid Ram head gear or even Cardinal head gear to wear were the St. Louis fans hearts not ripped out twice by the NFL, despite supporting the teams and their efforts here in St. Louis. But we don't. Instead, we have a sea of red and we bleed blue.
I don't live in St. Louis any more. I have lived in Kansas City for 15 years now. It always absolutely amazes me when I go home to St. Louis and am wearing Cardinals or Blues apparel and I look around any public place and I'm one of 30-40% of the people there that are also in theirs.
St. Louisans eat, breathe, and live Cardinals baseball and Blues hockey.
What does the Blues winning the 2018-19 Stanley Cup mean to the franchise (and their fans)?
There had been 94 Stanley Cups passed from the commissioner to the captain of a team in NHL history prior to last night, when Gary Bettman passed off the Stanley Cup for a 95th time in league history to the St. Louis Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo.
65 of the prior 94 had gone to captains of teams from the Original Six teams in the league. The NHL expanded to 12 teams, doubling their league, in 1967 by adding Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dallas (then Minnesota), Los Angeles, Cleveland (now defunct), and St. Louis. The Original Six stayed in one conference and the expansion teams joined in a conference of their own. They battled their own conferences in the playoffs to represent their conference in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first three years. The Blues were the "best of the worst" in those three seasons and went on to the Finals only to get demolished by the more established team every time, losing 12 out of 12 games over those three years and getting outscored by 26 goals in those 12 games. The NHL realized their mistake and rectified the situation by changing up the conferences after 3 seasons.
The Blues never made it to the finals again until this season, despite making the playoffs for the 42nd time in 51 seasons this year. The other teams that joined the Blues in 1967 had their fun in the sun:
Philadelphia has made the playoffs 39 times with 8 Finals trips and 2 Stanley Cups
Pittsburgh has made the playoffs 34 times with 6 Finals trips and 5 Stanley Cups
Minnesota/Dallas has made the playoffs 32 times with 2 Finals trips and 1 Stanley Cup
Los Angeles has made the playoffs 30 times with 2 Finals trips and 2 Stanley Cups
So the 4 other teams had a combined 18 trips to the Finals with 10 Stanley Cups between them and the Blues had 39 trips to the playoffs and not a single trip to the Finals since that third season.
It was worse than that, though.
The Flames joined the league 5 years after the Blues and have a Stanley Cup.
The Capitals joined the league 7 years after the Blues and have a Stanley Cup.
The Hurricanes joined the league 12 years after the Blues and have a Stanley Cup.
The Lightning joined the league 25 years after the Blues and have a Stanley Cup.
The Ducks joined the league 26 years after the Blues and have a Stanley Cup.
The Nordiques / Avalanche joined the league 12 years after the Blues and have 2 Stanley Cups.
The Scouts / Rockies / Devils joined the league 7 years after the Blues and have 3 Stanley Cups.
The Islanders joined the league 5 years after the Blues and have 4 Stanley Cups.
The Oilers joined the league 12 years after the Blues and have 5 Stanley Cups.
Many of those are especially frustrating for the Blues and their fans.
The Anaheim Ducks were only able to complete their quest for the cup after the Blues gave away Chris Pronger one offseason in a terribly lopsided trade that seems to have had no point except to save money for the owner. Anaheim picked him up and he led their team in ice time and in assists in their playoff run.
Al Arbour was the coach for the St. Louis Blues for 107 games over three seasons in 1970-73. The Blues allowed him to leave and he went to the Islanders and after one poor season became an instant hit on Long Island. His second year he improved the team from 56 points to 88 points. After that, he had a stretch of 9 years with either 100+ points in the season or a Stanley Cup or both. All in all, he and the Islanders averaged 106 points a season and won 4 Stanley Cups (back to back to back to back) in that 9 year stretch (and went to a fifth straight Stanley Cup Final after winning 4 in a row).
Perhaps more frustrating than either of those is the New Jersey Devils winning three Stanley Cups in a 9 year period while Scott Stevens was the captain of the Devils. You see, Stevens was a Blue, for one year. It cost a LOT to get Stevens. He was a restricted free agent (RFA) and the Blues had to give up two first round picks to sign him. That's not all. If the Washington Capitals (Stevens' former team) failed to pick in the top 7 in both of those two years (incentive to win), they would get FIVE first round picks from the Blues instead. The Blues, of course with the Blues' lack of luck, ended up having to give up 5 first round picks for Scott Stevens' 4 year deal. The next offseason, the Blues tried their luck at signing another RFA named Brendan Shanahan. Of course, the Devils would need to get compensation from the Blues for Shanahan, as per RFA rules. The Blues did not have first round picks to give the Devils due to having signed Stevens, so they had to negotiate. The Blues offered up a steep price of young, future star goaltender Curtis Joseph and young budding star Rod Brind'Amour (captain of the Carolina Hurricanes team that won it all) and two draft picks for the rights to Shanahan. The Devils decided that would not be enough to sign away Shanahan, who had 214 points in 288 career games to that point (Brind'Amour alone was 2 years younger with 110 points in 157 games). The Devils came back to the arbitration with Scott Stevens as the only player they wanted. When Stevens was signed to help out an 83 point St. Louis Blues team, he was immediately installed as the captain of the Blues and helped them to a 105 point season in his only year there. He was the heart and soul of the team. The judge awarded Stevens to the Devils for signing Shanahan away and the Blues then still owed 4 more first round picks to the Capitals still in addition to that. Then they had to watch the Devils win 3 Stanley Cups with Stevens as their captain.
If all of that wasn't enough. Here is a list of the winningest coaches of all time:
1. Scotty Bowman - 1244 wins, 9 Cups (some with the Red Wings of all teams) - Bowman coached the Blues his first 4 seasons as a coach. He left during the 4th season without a Cup win yet to his name.
2. Joel Quenneville - 890 wins, 3 Cups (with the Blackhawks of all teams) - Quenneville coached the Blues his first 8 years as a coach before we let him go without a Cup win yet to his name. (Yes, I'm a "we" person when talking about my teams. I live Blues and Cardinals.)
3. Ken Hitchcock - 849 wins, 1 Cup - Hitchcock coached the Blues for 6 seasons after having won a Cup, with former St. Louis Blue Brett Hull getting the series clincher in triple overtime.
4. Barry Trotz - never coached in STL
5. Al Arbour - 782 wins, 4 Cups - previously mentioned in this article.
That's four of the top coaches ALL-TIME have come and gone and not gotten the Blues a Cup. The Blues also had Mike Keenan coach them for 163 regular season games and 20 playoff games starting the year after he'd won a Cup in New York with the Rangers. They had Jacques Demers prior to him going to Detroit and then Montreal - where he won a Cup.
Blues fans and the Blues Franchise had been through a lot and seen a lot. It was our time.
For Charles Glenn
For Bernie Federko
For Brian Sutter
For Garry Unger
For Pavol Demitra
For Keith Tkachuk
For Barrett Jackman
For the Plager brothers
For Bob Gassoff
For Dan Kelly
For Doug Wickenheiser
For Doug Armstrong
For Larry Pleau
For Emile Francis
For all of you fans of which thankfully I am a part
For all of the people I did not get a chance to (or even know to) mention
For everyone who wasn't around long enough to see this happen
For so much history I can't fit into a 2,000ish word piece
Let's go Blues!