(Reuters) - Few Stanley Cup trophies have ever been as heavy as the one earned Wednesday by the St. Louis Blues, who lifted the weight of a championship-starved city that had long been on the wrong side of history.
For too long, the Blues had been tied to the Stanley Cup Final only as a victim of Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins who swept them in the title series of 1970.
The iconic photo of Orr launching through the air in celebration, after scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime, loomed as an omnipresent reminder of the franchise’s shortcoming.
St. Louis has now added a more favorable moment that comes 49 years after that Final defeat, and 51 seasons into the team’s existence – a championship.
“St. Louis, we frickin did it. We’re bringing the cup back home 49 years in the making,” Blues winger Pat Maroon told reporters.
“It’s amazing. This is a night I’ll never forget. I can’t be any more proud to be from St. Louis. I can’t wait to celebrate with you guys on Saturday in that parade.”
The homegrown Maroon has a special understanding of the angst of growing up a St. Louis fan. St. Louis is a respected sports city with the strong success of the Cardinals in Major League Baseball, a brief run from the NFL’s defunct Rams and an ancient one from the NBA’s former St. Louis Hawks.
Golf held its final major of the year in 2018 - the PGA Championship - at Bellerive Country Club outside of St. Louis to rave reviews.
But there is still something decidedly underdog about the city. The Blues franchise had made a habit of teasing their fan base with competitive teams that just could not take the final step. From 1979 to 2004, the Blues made 25 consecutive playoff appearances only to watch other teams collect the Cup. This year’s Blues appeared as though they may not make the playoffs at all.
They were in last place in the NHL on Jan. 3 and miraculously won 30 of their final 45 games to complete the turnaround.
“I really believe that the adversity that they had to go through to make the playoffs, and that schedule, and winning all those games (in the regular season), that really set us up for the playoffs,” said St. Louis coach Craig Berube, who took over as interim coach in November when Mike Yeo was fired.
“I’m so happy for the city of St. Louis and all our fans.”
It was all too fitting that the Blues would defeat the Bruins, not only avenging their past but scoring a win over the sports powerhouse city of Boston. A win for the Bruins would have given Boston the reigning champion in the NHL, MLB and NFL. Instead, St. Louis was rewarded for its wait.
“To bring a Cup to a city for a first time is crazy,” forward Jaden Schwartz said.
“Tough to put into words. These fans have been waiting a long time. It’s exciting. We’re going to have a lot of fun with it.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly