The hockey world has once again converged on the Gateway to the West but, this time, the stakes are far lower. After the worst to first Blues brought home Lord Stanley’s cup in 2019, the National Hockey League now brings its greatest celebration of the game to Enterprise Center. The town that became the hockey’s darling last season is totally the heart of the party.
It is the first time in history, since expansion in 1969, where the All-Star game host and reigning Stanley Cup champion are the same team. On city has never had a continued celebration of hockey like this before. Our city has yet another opportunity to prove why there is no place like “The Lou” for hockey in America.
In terms of the league itself, there really is no city quite like St Louis. Smack in the middle of the Midwest, it could be considered the heartland of America to the hockey world. It is not in a metropolitan monster like Chicago, nor is it part of ‘the south’ like Nashville. It is unique in its setting as a true midwestern city.
“I think people outside of here are starting to realize this isn’t just a baseball town,” John Nesbitt, a Blues fan from Clayton said during the opening day of NHL Fan Fair, “We love our Blues and we love our hockey.” John and his wife Alex later mentioned that events like the Stanley Cup run have impacted their kids’ decision to pick up hockey too.
The 2020 All-Star game has plenty of hometown stories to cheer for. The 4 Blues participants, the Tkachuk boys making their All-Star debuts, Coach Berube, the return of Oshie and more have locals feeling the feels.
For some STL natives, the opportunity to show the growth of the city is at the forefront of their minds. Peggy Kelline said, “I think we want to show everyone just how new and growing we are. (St Louis) doesn’t always have the best reputation, but with all the new things going up like Union Station and the development we’ve done, I hope they get to see what we’re so proud of. During the cup, it was just Boston fans who got to enjoy our city. Now it’s everyone!”
The Lou is taking every advantage to show off. Every event on the schedule is either sold out or very close to being sold out, and the Fan Fair has been a massive hit. When it comes to summing up the hockey identity of St. Louis no one puts it quite like Meghan Murray, a lifetime Blues fan, who said, “We are the heartland because the community here is so centered around hockey. People grow up with it all over the region. There are so many different local players who’ve gone on to the NHL. They have grown up here and were raised to get to that point. The Tkachuk’s, Pat Maroon, Bishop, Keller, and more beyond just them. After the Cup win, I think now more than ever, people outside of our community are starting to realize what “the heartland of hockey” really means. I think we’ve always believed it, but now it’s reached the masses. It’s who we are, our identity.”
St Louis gets its shot to solidify its name as a hockey city this weekend. The people of “The Lou” always knew it, but now the rest of the world will too.