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Joe Holleman is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Game 4 Stanley Cup Final Party

A statue of Pierre Laclede, adorned with a St. Louis Blues Jersey, stands over crowds during a watch party and rally on Market Street before the start of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues at the Enterprise Center in St Louis on Monday, June 3, 2019. Photo by Brian Munoz,

The Blues and I got a divorce 15 years ago.

In 2004, during the NHL's misguided work stoppage, I abandoned my 37-year allegiance to our city's skaters.

No, I didn't run off with another team, I just quit on ours. And honestly, I didn't find the break-up to be all that painful.

With baseball and football my first and second sports, I simply moved hockey aside and slid college basketball into the third slot.

In my defense, the split wasn't all my fault. Following the Blues was always a challenge and I came to believe they were indeed a "cursed" team.

Consider some of the times that tried fans' souls:

Start with 1983, when the team threatened to leave us for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Denver or Phoenix, fine. But Saskatoon?

Jump to 1991, when the NHL took Scott Stevens away and sent him to New Jersey, where he anchored three Stanley Cup winners.

And let's not forget 1996, when we had a coach who chased off Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky will forever be "The Great One." Mike Keenan will forever be "The Jerk Who Ran Chased Off The Great One."

Or there's the 1998 playoffs, when defenseman Chris Pronger got hit in the chest with a slapshot. Most players end up with a bruised sternum or broken collarbone. But Pronger had a HEART ATTACK.

If that doesn't say "cursed," what does?

Still, I do recall when the romance began: Year One — 1967.

It didn't take long after the Blues hit town before every kid in my neighborhood had hockey sticks and took to streets, parking lots and schoolyards.

We argued about who would be Barclay or Bob Plager, Red Berenson or Noel Picard, or if you had a catcher's mask or managed to get upholstery cushions and craft them into leg pads, Glenn Hall or Jacques Plante.

(Actually, the clear choice was Plante, whose pioneering mask and tendency to roam away from the net was cooler than Hall's pre-game vomiting.)

Sure, we sneaker-clad kids weren't flying around on ice, but don't sell the toughness of street hockey short until you've been checked face-first into a chain-link fence or the side mirror of a street-parked Vista Cruiser.

Remember: On ice, you slide; on concrete, you scrape.

We played every day after school until dinner, stopping only when someone yelled "CAR!" and we moved our homemade goals to the sidewalk until some adult passed by, usually yelling at us for playing in the street.

Still, I'll own that it was me who filed the separation papers.

So you won't see me jump on any bandwagon and claim undying devotion if the Blues should win on Sunday, or Wednesday, and hoist the Stanley Cup.

But if they do, it will be the greatest championship in St. Louis sports history.

Yes, it will be bigger than any Cardinals World Series victory, because we win those with some regularity.

Yes, it will be bigger than the Rams Super Bowl win, because they never really were our team. We poached them, then we got poached. 

Sure, I'll be a bit jealous of those fans who did keep the faith. But more so, I will be overjoyed for my friends:

Folks like Bartender Ray, who for years has joined players in not shaving during the playoffs. Usually, that meant maybe two weeks of scruffiness. This year, he's looking downright shaggy.

There's "Shocker King" Kevin, who left Hazelwood Central 40 years ago or so to play football at Wichita State and then remained a one-man Blues Crew in Kansas for decades. Poor guy probably hasn't slept for weeks.

Then there's Utah Greg, who moved here 20 years ago from a beautiful but boring state, claimed hockey and the Blues as his sport and team, and has faithfully ridden the emotional roller coaster ever since.

And then there's family, like Canada Anne and too many others to name, who somehow have approached each season with "this might be our year" optimism — only to be met with my snide remarks when the Blues would inevitably fail.

So if the Blues do win the Cup, I won't be crying, they'll be crying.

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