Blues fans all knew what time of year it was, all knew what was at stake. The Colorado Avalanche were running neck-and-neck for the Central Division lead down the home stretch. Vladimir Tarasenko was about to return from shoulder surgery. And then, the defense of the Stanley Cup would begin in earnest.
But the plug was pulled March 12, when the NHL season was suspended indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic. For many, the new normal means social distancing, working at home, staying at home, and in some cases not working at all because of layoffs or furloughs.
And, of course, no Blues hockey. Here are how some fans are coping:
“The thing that I think is maddening for hardcore Blues fans is the fact that we know just how rare these windows are,” said Dan Cornwell, holder of a 12-pack ticket plan. “We’d never been a champion, so we’ve never had the opportunity to defend it. But this team is really good.
“And to see that opportunity, to know it’s right there, and to know how infrequent that it’s occurred, it’s really maddening to think of what could happen should they need to cancel the playoffs.”
The hockey anxiety really got to Cornwell a week or so ago while working from his man cave in Kirkwood. More precisely, his Blues man cave. It includes two seats and a brick from the old Arena . . . framed jerseys from the 2017 Winter Classic and the inaugural 1967 Blues squad . . . a signed Al MacInnis stick . . . a couple neon signs . . . a St. Louis Eagles jersey from that 1934-35 NHL team. . . .
“There’s too much to list,” said Cornwell, 36, who works in e-commerce for Famous Footwear.
Out of his puck anxiety came the idea of a socially-distanced re-watch party. On the agenda — what else? — Game 7 of last season’s Stanley Cup Final, against Boston. He put out a notification on Twitter and more than 70 people responded.
The plan was for fans to find a recording of the game on iTunes, etc., then at 8 p.m. Friday press “play,” and then interact via Twitter (#bouwvid-19) about the contest.
Alas, all this was set up before NHL Network decided to run replays of all seven games from the Blues-Bruins series in a Friday marathon. That took some of the steam out of Cornwell’s event, as did the fact that NBCSN replayed Game 7 of the Blues’ second-round series with Dallas (featuring Pat Maroon’s double-overtime goal) that same night.
Even so, several dozen fans participated in #bouwvid-19.
“The most fun part about it was texting my father, brother and cousin from their respective couches during the action,” Cornwell said. “Which, with all our busy lives, is kind of how we watch games ‘together’ anyway.”
During the middle of the 4-1 Blues victory, Cornwell’s father texted: “I miss sports.”
Life without hockey: 'I hate it'
Oakville’s Sandy Franklin really misses hockey. She was two weeks ahead of NHL Network when it came to binge-watching the Cup Final series. She had recorded all seven games and watched them all on March 14-15, the first weekend of the NHL shutdown.
She’s seen the Winter Classic between the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks twice since the NHL’s coronavirus “pause,” plus all the Fox Sports Midwest replays from this season, and a stray NHL game here and there such as NBCSN’s replay of the decisive Game 5 of the 2018 Cup Final between David Perron’s Vegas Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals.
“I hate it,” Franklin said of life without hockey. “I can work from home. I don’t care about baseball. Baseball is just something to do until hockey season starts.”
Her license plate reads ST-BLUES. Adding to the torture, she gets game-day phone notifications whenever the Blues are scheduled to play. She has gotten eight such notifications during the “pause,” but no live games.
“You have to understand, the first hockey game that I ever went to was a date with my (future) husband,” she said.
That was 1976, and she was still in high school. Their Arena seats were folding chairs next to the press box.
“I had never been to a hockey game before,” Franklin said. “I didn’t know anything about hockey. And I thought to myself: ‘I gotta marry this guy because this is the coolest thing that I have ever seen in my life.’ “
John and Sandy tied the knot in 1980. They had season tickets at The Arena, took a break (from season tickets, not from attending games) when son Tom was born, and have been season-ticket holders since 1996 at what now is Enterprise Center.
Betty Covington of St. Charles County finds the Blues TV replays “depressing.”
She started attending Blues games regularly when the team traded for Brett Hull and currently is on a six-game package in Section 121.
“Yeah, I am going crazy,” Covington said. “I’m a big Cardinals and Blues fan, like everybody. All us sports fans are going crazy. What are you writing about?”
(Well, on this day, about you.)
She doesn’t think hockey will return this season
“If they had (the virus) contained, at least somewhat, I would say maybe,” Covington said. “We’re still shutting down stuff. . . . The silver lining is, we (would) get to be champs for another year.”
When it was suggested that the Bruins might be crowned champs if the NHL doesn’t resume this season — they do have the most points in the league — Covington responded with exasperation.
“There’s no way,” she said. “How do you award it? There’s no playoffs. How do you — no way! No way!”
Covington did get a hockey fix on March 13, the day after the NHL suspended play. That was the night of the Blues’ scheduled home game against San Jose. With no hockey, Covington and a girlfriend who was in town for the game ended up at a bar and grill in Creve Coeur. There, they ran into none other than coach Craig Berube.
“Hey, Chief!” Covington’s girlfriend yelled. They posed for a picture with Berube, he talked with them for a bit.
“He couldn’t have been nicer,” Covington said.
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