The first hockey game I ever went to was a Blues game. The first hockey game my wife and kids ever went to was a Blues game, and I’ve brought both my father and my father-in-law to Blues games.
I have sat among angry fans in Dallas who threatened me with large hair, cowboy hats, silicone implants, and worse because I was supporting the Blues in their building.
I have endured the pain of winning the President’s Trophy and then seen my Blues go out in the first round to the number 8 seed. (One of the many reasons I hate the San Jose Sharks).
I have smiled politely when my Blues were eliminated from the playoffs by teams that would eventually win the Cup (I’m looking at you, 2012 Kings).
I have withstood the condescension of Blackhawks fans as they told me really, how much better we were this year than we were last year (thanks, Mom).
I have watched an aging Al McInnis and Grant Fuhr lace them up for one more run. I have mourned the untimely passing of Pavol Demitra, even though he’d left the River City by then.
I am a St. Louis Blues Fan. So what the hell am I doing living on the East Coast?
Because it’s not like being a fan in exile is easier than being a fan at home. Easier than when I could walk—walk I tell you!—to the ScotTrade Center to catch a weeknight game after work. When I might actually bump into players on the streets, in the bars, in the stores. When everyone around me was a Blues fan and could engage me in hockey conversations deeper than “Really? There’s an NHL team in St. Louis? Since when?” (Since 1968, actually, but thanks for paying attention).
For being a Blues fan in exile is not even remotely the same as being a fan in exile for other teams. You can be a Yankee fan anywhere on the planet and still be as involved as anyone in the Bronx. You can be a Cowboys fan, a Lakers fan, a Man United fan, a Kim Jung Un fan and get a better level of support than you do when you’re the fan of a small market team that’s never won the cup and doesn’t happen to have a player on it’s squad that the NHL seems to have a pathology for protecting at all costs.
When you’re a Blues fan in exile, you comb the schedules of the local teams to see when, or even if, they’re coming to town. You calculate if you can get tickets, how beaten up will you get in the parking lot, and if just makes more sense to watch the local broadcast.
No. When you’re a Blues fan, you’re on your own. At least, until the playoffs come around, and then every game they play is on TV (well, eventually; thanks for bumping us for Tampa Bay, NBCSN). And you begin to speculate wildly about the relative merits of rookies you’d never heard of, and what they absolutely must do for us to make it to the next round (Yes, Robert Fabri, that was me yelling at you).
When you’re a fan in exile during the playoffs, your judgment becomes skewed. You sense unfairness in every comment by every analyst during every game (Really Pierre Maguire? This is a “test for the Stars”? How about this is a “tremendous performance by the Blues”? How about the cup is half full for St. Louis, not that it’s half empty for Dallas. Or am I being paranoid?)
When you’re a fan in exile you find yourself nodding off in meetings because you were up until one o’clock in the morning because the NHL decided to start the game at 8:30 Central.
When you’re a fan in exile, the neighbors hear yelling and call the cops and the cops don’t understand why you’re watching hockey when the Rangers/Bruins/Flyers aren’t playing. Aren’t even sure where exactly St. Louis is. Or that there even is a place called St. Louis. Or a hockey team there. Or that if there were, that they’d be playing at this ungodly hour.
But that’s because being a fan—of any team, actually—isn’t easy. It would be easy if we could get on the ice and help them score. If we could sit in the penalty box for them. If we could go after Dwight King when he took a cheap shot at Alex Pietrangelo and ended his series in 2012 (we tried; it didn’t end well).
Instead, all we can offer them is our passion and our pain and our sorrow and our support. All we can be is the only Blue Note on Broadway or Broad Street. All we can be is that single blue shirt in a sea of red in Chicago or of yellow in Boston.
Especially when we’re in exile.