Blues fans pack the lawn at the arch grounds after Blues victory parade. Scott Kane/AP photo
/ˈbandˌwaɡən/ used in reference to an activity, cause, etc. that is currently fashionable or popular and attracting increasing support.
I’ve been thinking about the excitement that has encompassed this city since The Blues have won the Stanley Cup. In reflecting, I am curious to know what it not only means for fans but what it means for the die-hard fans.
Any sports fan will always celebrate their team’s victory and championship run. Why wouldn’t they? It’s their team, right? But, I wanted to take a deeper look. I wanted to examine the focal point of what we determine to be a St. Louis Blues fan.
I consider myself a Blues fan and have since I was a kid. I have experienced the ups and downs as well as the heartaches and losses. The playoff losses are always the worst of course.
When I met my wife, she informed me that she became a Blues fan when she attended her first-ever game. This particular game was the 4th game of the 1st round Quarterfinal Playoffs against the Canucks. She said she was screaming at the top of her lungs and watched the Blues get swept in 4 games. She had never before attended any hockey game, but she was hooked after that 2008-2009 season. After listening to her story from being at that game, it was clear that her heart was bleeding Blue.
Together, she and I have attended close to 100 games. The experiences have provided all of the highs and lows that any fan can have in a game. I remember spending hundreds of dollars on a New Year’s Eve night at the arena facing a Detroit team and relishing in the fact that there were 18,000 people packed in the place. The Blues lost that game 3-0, but the party continued because that’s what Blues fans do and it was New Year’s Eve!
The Winter Classic
Fast forward to the Winter Classic. I was so pumped for this opportunity along with the 46,000 other attendees that I nearly spent a second mortgage to attend the event — bucket list accomplishment completed for sure.
I remember the fog and the super weird air flow as it wasn’t cold as much as it was hazy. The Blackhawks reign was still very much intact as Corey Crawford & company had a good showing in what would ‘feel’ like their hundredth time in a Winter Classic, but our boys prevailed and built yet another memory.
At this event, fans were everywhere, of course. It was at this point in my mind that I started to wonder, “Where are the real fans versus fans who are most likely here because it’s a unique event?” After all, it was a huge event for our city, and perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity for many.
Stanley Cup Final
The evening before Game 6 of the Final, my wife and I planned to attend the watch party in the park across from the arena. The feeling of knowing I was going to be among thousands of fans watching the game seemed surreal. Standing outside of Enterprise Center elicited endorphins like opening presents on Christmas. This moment was special since they could have clinched it in front of everyone in the city.
I jumped online, bought my $10 prepaid parking pass and was ready. The next day we decided to head down early to secure our spot. My parking spot was already taken so I was out $10, but that didn’t matter. We stood in line for about 20 minutes, passed through security without any issues. Upon entering you could tell this place was going to be a party for a Sunday night.
The weather was perfect and the buzz was electric in the city. We found our spot near a tree and staked our claim for the duration of the game. Even though the result was not in our favor it was incredible to see how many old and perhaps new fans left the confines of their home on a Sunday night just to be part of this event.
The essential win in game seven showed me that this city and the wagon filled with fans galore was something, unlike anything we have seen. My family decided to stay at The Hyatt in downtown St. Louis for the parade. The blood flow of Blue was unreal.
My wife and I were in great company with fans in the hotel bar that night. The ‘real Blues’ energy was palpable and joy seemed to fill the bar with excitement for the next day . Attending the parade was amazing. I could see the Blues fans, but I could also see the fans who came to see the parade who weren’t necessarily Blues fans. It stings a little because you know they aren’t really there for the team as much as they are for a party. I remember watching some young twenty-somethings climb on top of a roof waiting for the parade to start as they clashed their beers together and I thought, “I remember when I had my first beer.”
Aside from the younger crowd of party-goers, it was probably the most well-attended event related to sports that I was present for in my lifetime. Attending the All-Star Game at Busch Stadium, a Rams playoff game, and even Game 6 of the World Series. Seeing David Freese unleash his fury in that World Series game was my personal top moment for that time.
The Impact of Winning
Recently, it has been a summer of days with the Stanley Cup and player sightings and times to remember. Following social media has been tremendous in constantly recreating a feeling of joy for St. Louis. There was certainly progress made in our fan base. A friend of mine that works for the team said they made several million in just the 3 home games alone strictly in merchandise for the Cup Final. Since the exact figures are not in my possession I do not know the real amount but it is significant enough that as of this date in August he continues filling back-ordered merchandise.
Ticket sales are surely perhaps higher than they have been in a long time. My same friend said the team has sold upwards of 15,000 in season ticket packages. Packages in terms of 10 game, 20 game, half and whole season is unreal!
That is a far cry away from the days when I could watch the Blues and Canucks in 2011 for $6 a ticket. Who knows, it might be $60 a seat to get in the door next season for that same seat and that is a fantastic accomplishment for this team, city and fan base.
What Will This Year’s Fan Base Look Like?
In my opinion, this year will bring about a fan base entrenched in the team that won The Cup. Tickets may be more expensive and harder to come by. How do we, as fans delineate the real fans from the drive-by fans? It’ll be tough to do this upcoming season since some will have been a fan since June 12th, 2019. Will those fans still be there if we hit a six-game skid in November? Will the new fanbase wait to resurface until playoff time? When you’re a Blues fan, you’re in it 100% from beginning to end. True Blues fans want everyone to be on board all season.
I’ll leave you with a nice anecdotal story about turning someone into a fan. My previous boss is a flag flying, card-carrying St. Louis Cardinals fan. He didn’t follow the Blues but knew they had turned their season around. He started watching in the playoffs, and after Game 7 of the 2nd round, he sent me a text and said he was hooked! One week after the parade we ran into each other. I asked what he thought after that exhilarating two-month postseason run.
His exact words were, “I’m all in! I cannot believe I didn’t get into this sport until now. I watch baseball, and now that hockey is over I’m like….this is so slow!” He’s certainly still a fan of the Redbirds, but it’s clear he has joined the ranks of thousands of others across the country as a new fan. This is precisely what we want!
The Heartland of Hockey
Tom Stillman, Craig Berube, and Doug Armstrong have done so much to propel our team to be relevant and part of the conversation in regards to our “Midwest Market” team. We have shown that we can compete. If you were a fan that jumped on board when we made the playoffs then stay on board and keep it going. We need your support from the start.
Thanks for reading. Take care of yourselves and each other.