(Above photo credit: AP)
By: Karen Still Follow Me @bluinsfan2017
Welcome to Outside the Spoked B: Eastern Conference thoughts from a Western Conference mindset! This will be a series of articles about how my first year following the Bruins coming from a strictly Western Conference background (namely the St. Louis Blues) went and what I’ve learned so far in the process. I don’t have a set number of articles for this, but it is my sincerest hope that all who read will enjoy the rather bumpy adventures of a new fan to the Eastern Conference.
Now, instead of the beginning of the 2017-18 season two weeks ago, I figured the best place to start would be to talk about what it’s all about–the Stanley Cup.
Lord Stanley’s coveted cup has the distinction of being the oldest trophy in pro sports. As such, it has many interesting tales to tell, including what it’s like to be used as a cereal bowl by our very own Ball of Hate.
What does it feel like Bruins fans? No seriously what does it feel like to win that coveted trophy, to watch your boys hoist it high over their heads, screaming in celebration? We here in St. Louis want to know.
The Blues themselves had only made it to the Stanley Cup Finals 3 times since their founding back in 1967; and it was in those first 3 seasons, one of which was against your Boston Bruins. Where the great Bobby Orr was immortalized:
I remember watching this particular highlight in a VHS on Blues history growing up. It was the first time I had ever heard of Bobby Orr (in fact, the only Bruins I really knew about growing up in the 80s/90s were him, Cam Neely, Ray Bourque, and Andy Moog that I can remember right now).
Since then, the Blues only made it to the 3rd round twice: in the 2000-01 and 2015-16 seasons. I had been keeping token tabs on the former, but it is the latter that I really want to talk about. That is where I think I might have felt a small smidgen of what it’s like to win or come close to.
It’s always electric, highly-charged atmosphere whenever the Blues play the Blackhawks, regardless if it’s the playoffs or not. This 1st round matchup was no different; there was a lot of back and forth, dirty plays, great goals, god-awful (and some would say biased) officiating and as per usual just an outright bloodbath: all those things that we as Blues fans have come to expect out of this classic rivalry. There was also a lot of ‘rivalry’ among the fans of both clubs, especially with the advent of social media. I did my best to stay out of these, mostly because of my superstition that if you trash talk/troll your opponents too much, it’ll jinx your team. This is especially true during the playoffs (but believe me the burning hatred I have for Chicago was very much alive and well).
The best memory of that series I have was in Game 7 (4-25-16). It was a Saturday night, and I get out of work late. I listened to the game the entire way home, zoning in on that like a hawk. Once I was there, I kept all the lights off and paced about my living room, the only sound being my own overactive, racing heart. Game 7s, in general, are notorious for raising one’s blood pressure and shortening fingernails. It’s the ‘do-or-die’ aspect of it, the ‘win-or-go-home.’ Then when Troy Brouwer scored with 08:31 left to go in the game, I think I screamed so loud that I was really and genuinely surprised that I didn’t have the cops called on me. The amount of that energy kept me going for the rest of the game, keeping on the Blues to hold on.
And hold on they did, eliminating the Blackhawks and heading to the 2nd round to face Dallas. It’s always a great feeling to not only defeat but eliminate your team’s most hated rivals–that’s something all teams and their fanbases can relate to.
The Dallas series I don’t have any memories of, although a lot of people thought of it was boring. I’m rather indifferent about the Stars, but nonetheless, that series likewise went 7 games in which we took, heading to the 3rd round for the first time since 2000-01.
The Sharks weren’t a team I knew much about but again, the Blues were pushing, and pushing hard. The atmosphere around St. Louis, was like a subtle, crackling electricity; you Bruins fans know the kind–that ‘silent but ready to explode’ sensation having come so far already but with still a long way to go. It was amazing to see the city so alive and pulling for this Blues team and beautiful too. The thoughts I had was like ‘we’re so close, we can do this.’ It was…unreal and near indescribable.
It appeared as if this series was likewise going to go a full 7 games. It all came to a head at Game 6 (5-25-16). This was one of those times I was glad that the game didn’t start until 9pm my time, so I headed to one of my favorite restaurants to watch it after work.
The more the Sharks took the lead, the more energy I could feel being drained from the room and my own heart was sinking. I was near tears when they couldn’t pull it through but I wasn’t ticked off–in fact, I was proud of them for having fought and overcome some near impossible obstacles to get as far as they did. No-one ever expects the Blues to get that far and yet they did. Was I let down? Sure, but I think I was sadder and felt for them more than anything.
I think the main thing with that season is that the Blues were tired: they had fought two adamant opponents to 7 games each to reach the 3rd round, and it sucked the life out of them. They tried, they pushed, and they just ran out of gas. If anything, it’s this interview right here that I think sums it up 100%:
This moment still stays with me and brings me to tears every single time. The amount of pure, genuine emotion from then-Captain Backes just tears me up. This also reminds me of just how very human all of these players are. It’s one of those moments in which you realize for a short moment just how much these men sacrifice for the ultimate prize in their sport.
So there you have it Bruins fans–that is my story of the quest for the Cup as I can best remember it. Now please tell me, is any of this what it feels like to watch your team win it all or come close to? Is it what it’s like to drink from the proverbial Cup? Am I close or like my original team, still so very far away? If you wish, please feel free to let me know in the comments.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned: there’s a lot more to come!