A nearly five-decade wait for hockey fans throughout the St. Louis region ends Monday. The Blues will return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.
They will be in Boston to take on the Bruins, the same team that knocked out the Blues the last time they made it this far.
Author Dan O’Neill’s connection to the National Hockey League team goes way back. He was working as a busboy in the old arena club during that 1970 final and was in the building earlier this month when the Blues clinched a spot in this year’s final playoff round.
In his mind, there is a key difference between the 2019 squad and the one that took the ice when Richard Nixon was in the White House.
“When the Blues last went to the finals in 1970, they had no chance to win the Cup,” he said, while pointing out the franchise has never won a game in the last round of the playoffs.
The Blues made the final three years in a row in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and were swept each time.
Then came the 49-year drought, but the team has NOT been awful for half-a-century.
“I’ve never really looked at the Blues as this downtrodden, woebegotten franchise,” he said. “They’ve had a ton of postseason excitement. A ton of great players — hall-of-fame players.”
O'Neill wrote the lyrics to this song and recorded it with some friends a couple years ago. He says it never caught on as a Blues' playoff theme.
O’Neill pointed to the 1996 team which had five future hall of famers on the ice. That includes Wayne Gretzky, who is considered one of the greatest of all-time.
He also pointed to the 2000 team, which O’Neill said had a great chance after finishing the regular season with the best record in the league. But it was eliminated in the first round after most of the players came down with the flu.
That is one example of the uncertainty that can surround hockey’s postseason.
“It becomes a crapshoot,” O’Neill said.
This season’s deep playoff run comes after a rough few years for the region. From the events in Ferguson, to a national perception as a violent city and the loss of major corporate headquarters.
O’Neill believes this team could become a rallying point for area residents.
“Anything that makes people feel good about where they’re living and that kind of thing is definitely a plus,” he said.
“Man, if they would win the Cup. That would just take it to another level.”
The Blues are guaranteed to have two Stanley Cup Final contests on home ice. Game 3 is June 1, and game 4 is set for June 3 at Enterprise Center.
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