Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blues fans pack Ballpark Village for Ice Breaker event

Players overwhelmed as team unveils new uniforms, 
introduce Stastny to packed crowd at FOX Sports Midwest Live!

ST. LOUIS -- They were packed in like sardines on a sweltering day outside that grew by the second inside the confines of FOX Sports Midwest Live!

But for the 4,000-plus blue and gold-clad fans toting the Bluenote on jerseys, t-shirts, buttons, hats, earrings, socks, shoes and the like, Monday's Ice Breaker event to introduce the Blues' newest acquisition in Paul Stastny, plus the unveiling of the team's new jerseys was more than a rousing success.

Which poses the easiest question of all Blues fans all want to know: Is it October yet?
Blues players (from left to right) Paul Stastny, Barret Jackman, T.J. Oshie,
Alex Pietrangelo and David Backes sport the new uniforms the team
unveiled Monday night at Ballpark Village.

Despite the 100-degree heat that's engulfed St. Louis in the past week, Blues fans are already thinking winter months and the 2014-15 hockey season. FOX Sports Midwest Live! inside Ballpark Village overwhelmed and entertained and brought out multiple chants of "Let's Go Blues!" And when the main attractions took the stage, even they were awe-struck by what defenseman Barret Jackman called "a sea of blue and gold."

"It was a lot more than I expected," Jackman said. "I've been down here to check out Ballpark Village after a Cardinal game. To walk in here and see a sea of blue and gold, it's pretty special. You're still (weeks) away from training camp, but people are as excited now as they were in the playoffs last year.

"You come to an event like this, the adrenaline starts rushing and we look forward to getting on the ice and making it count."

Despite three straight disappointing and short postseason runs following impressive regular season runs, excitement continues to run rampant for the Blues and their fans. Management -- with ownership's blessing -- went out and signed Stastny, the biggest prize as far as free agents centers that were on the market. General manager Doug Armstrong also was able to bring in Jori Lehtera, the team's third round pick in 2008, as well as sign Joakim Lindstrom, former first round pick Peter Mueller and traded for puck-moving defenseman Carl Gunnarsson.

"I'm really excited about the fan anticipation this season," Armstrong said. "I'm the same way. I can't wait for the end of September and October to get on the ice. It's great to see the fans buying into the program and what we're trying to accomplish here. It makes us work that much harder trying to please them accomplish those goals we've reserved for the season.

"These are great hockey fans. We're excited to have Paul, we're excited to have all the returning players coming back. It's a difficult league to win in and all we want to do is give ourselves that opportunity and I think we have."

Blues radio voice Chris Kerber emceed the event and brought on original Blues Bobby Plager and Jimmy Roberts to kick things off after the Charles Glenn Band got everyone in a festive mood. Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock followed Plager and Roberts and perhaps arguably the greatest Blue of all time, Brett Hull, stepped on stage before today's crop of stars, which also included captain David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo, capped the evening.

"It was amazing how many people showed up and how many people they could fit in the space they have here," Oshie said. "Seeing every little video, you kind of get chills thinking about the season, thinking about the things we're capable of doing here."

Backes agreed.

"They were packed in there," he said of the fans. "I don't know if they could squeeze more in there. Great to see the turnout with the weather and how hot it was in that building, you can tell the passion the fans have. The guys on the team, I can tell you, are just as excited. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We're excited for it, we're re-energized after the summer. We're not satisfied with how (last) year ended. We've got another great opportunity lying ahead of us.

"I've done a lot of public appearances ... I don't know if I've seen one that energetic, that excited and that many people packed into a smaller area like that. It really shows that it's August 25th or whatever it is, but those people are as excited as anyone to get the season going and making sure that we're ready to play and they're ready to go to the rink and cheer us on."

As for the new uniforms? The Blues didn't change too much from last year's version. It's a more of a retro look from the 1980's and '90's. The biggest change came in the form of the team's colors presented in stripes across the shoulders, bottoms of sleeves and jerseys as well as socks.


"I think they look good. I didn't know exactly what they were going to go with, but me and 'Petro' put them on with full gear the other day and the socks were really cool," Oshie said. "With the socks, they look really sharp. 

"I was hoping they were going to go back to the baby blue ones (from the the 1970's and mid-'80's), but they look good when you're in full gear." 
A standing room-only crowd of 4,000-plus fans attended the Icebreaker
event for the Blues to unveil new uniforms and introduce Paul Stastny.

Oshie, however, is in the minority -- as in only one -- when it came to the opinions regarding uniforms of the mid-to-late 1990's.

"I wanted the red, but apparently, no one likes that red," Oshie said with a grin.

So when players report for training camp Sept. 17, Blues fans will be geared up for what should be another successful regular season run that they hope culminates into a deep playoff push. 

"It's been since (1967) ... do the math," Backes said. "That's 47 going on 48 years of people yearning and desiring for that big, silver trophy. 

"We've got a group of guys that that's a realistic expectation. Now we've got to go out there, do the work and win games and make sure we're playing deep in the playoffs." 

Ownership and management have fortified the goods. It's on the players to fulfill the goals.

"It shows how far they're willing to go and how bad they want to win," Oshie said of ownership's commitment. "They've done a pretty good job of getting the right guys in the locker room. As far as a playoff player goes, we want (No.) 26 (Stastny) in our corner."

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