The St. Louis Blues and their fans have been waiting to have a showcase outdoor game. Just when they are awarded the main one, it feels like it is getting second tier status.
St. Louis Blues fans have been waiting for an outdoor game of their own for years now. Many would have been fine with a Stadium Series game, but the ultimate prize was always the league’s Winter Classic.
There were whispers and rumblings last season that the Blues were finally going to play in one. While there was the vague worries it would be on the road, most people assumed St. Louis would have an outdoor game in Busch Stadium.
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Fans were excited. They wondered with joy when the game would be and who the opponents might be, as though it could be anyone else.
Then, we were all given the jackpot. St. Louis was not relegated to the back page. The city was given the main course by being awarded the Winter Classic.
We were all overjoyed. It was just what the city needed to both capitalize on the team’s success and also sooth the wounds that a certain mustached NFL owner inflicted on our city.
The Blues were going to be in the spotlight that only a NHL Finals appearance could eclipse. St. Louis was going to be put in a positive light and have wonderful things said about it by a league that has always seemed to overlook it.
Then, in typical fashion with anything having to do with the Blues, the bottom began to fall out (just a little). Nothing can ever just be fantastic when our hockey team is involved.
By a simple trick of the calendar, the Winter Classic was taken off the January 1 holiday. There seemed to be no malice done with this. The NHL was just chickening out by not wanting it’s showcase game to go up against the NFL since it is on a Sunday.
No big deal, right? The Winter Classic is still the league’s major outdoor game and the Blues would still get their spotlight.
Pump the brakes on that just a bit. Again, through no real fault of the league, fate had a different plan for the Blues.
The Winter Classic was given to the Blues, in part, because they were the only team celebrating their 50th anniversary that had not taken part in an outdoor game. Consolation perhaps, but who cares.
Now, there are a few cracks being put in that facade. The 50th anniversary of our team happens to coincide with the beginning of the 100th anniversary celebration of the league itself.
So, the NHL, being what it is, decided to have another outdoor game to commemorate the centennial. Instead of having a gap between games, the NHL kept the January 1 date and handed that to Toronto for it’s game against Detroit.
Forget the fact we have already seen that match up in Detroit, but to have a high profile outdoor game a day before our own seems a little short sighted, if not disingenuous.
The Winter Classic was also kept at it’s normal afternoon start time (though it could be altered). That becomes an issue because it’s on a Monday and not everyone is given January 2 off.
Small issues, I suppose. It just keeps chipping away at the event in terms of making it completely special to the area.
Then came the direct conflict with the alumni games. I fully admit to making too much out of this issue, but it just bothers me.
The Toronto-Detroit alumni game is on December 31, the same day as the Blues vs. Blackhawks alumni. That means Blues and Hawks fans won’t be seeing guys like Brendan Shanahan, Curtis Joseph, Doug Gilmour or Chris Chelios.
Sure, those guys could have made the decision themselves and played in the Winter Classic Alumni game. There is no proof or hint that any of them were pushed to pick that game over the one in St. Louis, but it just feels off.
It adds to the irrational belief we all have that the league caters to anyone but the Blues. We all jokingly – some seriously – go on about how the refs are paid off to call games against us. This does nothing to make any of that sort of sentiment go away.
In the end, it’s not a huge deal. The Blues are still playing in the Winter Classic and we are all going to enjoy the hell out of it.