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Blues host critical game seven with the Blackhawks

The Blues bench starts to celebrate on Monday, April 25, 2016, at the end of the third period of the hockey game between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks at Scottrade Center. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

He’s becoming the most popular Tony in St. Louis since Tony’s. He’s the best story of the NHL postseason. He’s accidental Twitter sensation Anthony Holmes, AKA “Tony X,” a diehard Blues fan dating all the way back to Monday.

If you haven’t heard of Holmes yet, the refreshing St. Louis native’s tweets went viral during Game 7 of Blues-Blackhawks.

“I knew zero about hockey,” the 26-year-old Holmes told me by phone Wednesday. “I’d never even watched a game before the other night. Honestly, I was looking for the Cardinals game to watch them.”

We’ve all experienced this: that first time you fall for a sport, which then gives you that insatiable itch. Holmes turned on Fox Sports Midwest on Monday just as Game 7 began, so he decided to give this hockey thing a shot.

“This the first time I’ve ever watched hockey,” he tweeted from @SoIoucity, “and this (stuff) has been LIT for these first 45 seconds.”

Now, right away, many of you are wondering the definition of “lit” in this scenario. I asked Holmes for an explanation. He paused and chuckled.

“If I try to describe it, I’d probably use another word I’d have to describe, too – poppin’,” Holmes said. “But it’s basically something that’s crazy, that’s good, that’s fun. Basically that’s what lit is.”

As the game continued, his tweets were innocent and honest, with a bunch of personality splashed upon the 140 characters. He totally got into it, and people started retweeting his entertaining takes, such as:

• “(What) is a power play”

• “Honestly why wouldn’t the whole team just stand in front of the net for the last minute”

• “White people been hiding hockey from us for years bruh. This (stuff is) lit”

• “WE DID ITTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT”

• “‘We’ being used very loosely.”

By Wednesday night, the South County resident had 47,000 Twitter followers. The popular site Deadspin featured Holmes in a piece entitled: “Man Discovers Hockey, Loves It.” The Blues invited him to be their guest at his first-ever hockey game in person: Game 3 of the conference semifinals.

“And I’m actually doing a Skype session tomorrow morning with Michael Strahan on ‘Good Morning America,’” said Holmes, who grew up in University City and works at a local cable company. “Hockey got pretty exciting real quick. It was just nonstop action – it was like I was almost having a panic attack every time somebody shot at the goal. Football is exciting, but after every play they take a break. Hockey never stops. It just never stops.”

When the Blues tweeted at Holmes on Wednesday, inviting him to Game 3 against Dallas, he responded: “I’m there. should i bring a jacket? I’m so serious. It is a room full of ice?”

The athletic company Reebok promptly tweeted to him, offering Blues gear to wear. And hundreds of people tweeted back with advice on what to wear to games, as well as words of wisdom. I’m smiling as I type this tweet @SteveDodd sent to Holmes: “You are everything that’s great about sports fans, Tony. Have fun!”

The emergence of Holmes into our lives has been such a treat. It feels as if everyone in this city is into the Blues. Of course, there are the true diehards who have earned this ecstasy, those folks who suffered through the postseason stomach-punches. The diehards who watched the Monday Night Miracle, who remember 50-in-50, who can name all the Sutter brothers, who recall all the Blues ratings on NHLPA 93, who know the Towel Man’s real name. But what’s cool about April 2016 is that we’re getting to share the Blues. For a city that lost a team, it’s reassuring and reinvigorating to watch us come together for another team.

The players are feeling it, too. Brian Elliott said the neighborhood kids wrote chalk messages on the street in front of his home, and others decorated his home with balloons, beads and blue lights.

“The neighbors put a sign on our front door,” Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s fun, it’s a good feeling, we’re glad to bring the fans what they want to see, it’s been a tough couple of years in the postseason for them.”

And for Ol’ Hitch, the coach who got over that first-round hump, he said Wednesday with a smirk: “I got back to the condo and there was signage everywhere. And it wasn’t ‘Get Rid Of Hitch.’”

Love the candor and candidness. Game 7 really was a heck of a win.

As for Holmes, he described his St. Louis pride by saying: “I ride for all my city’s teams,” explaining that “if it was a different hockey game, I probably wouldn’t have had this experience, because it had nothing to do with St. Louis. So I’m glad it was the Blues so I got to watch them.”

St. Louis is lit.

Note: Holmes' account was deactivated for a while Thursday afternoon after it was hacked. It has been restored. 

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Benjamin Hochman is a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch