Monday, January 1, 2018

One year ago, St. Louis was the center of the hockey world

Crazy to think it's been a year since Blues hosted their first-ever 
outdoor game at Busch Stadium, defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1

ST. LOUIS -- One year ago today, the Blues and the city of St. Louis was ready to host one of those memorable moments that will stick in the minds and hearts of players and fans for a lifetime.

For the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues' opponent in the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, playing in another outdoor game has become like the flavor of the month. It's a common theme, and the Blackhawks are hosting the Boston Bruins inside Notre Dame Stadium in the 2019 version. But for the Blues, it was one of the more memorable moments those that participated will ever experience.

The Blues defeated the Blackhawks 4-1 on that Jan. 2, 2017 day behind two third-period goals from Vladimir Tarasenko.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko (left), Kevin Shattenkirk (22) and Robby Fabbri join in
on a celebration of Tarasenko's goal last season at the 2017 Winter Classic.

"It was awesome. It's one of the coolest things I've ever done," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "... It was just such a big stage, especially with the camaraderie we have with the Cardinals too. A lot of us go down to the games, we know the players and to kind of step in their shoes was cool for us.

"I knew it was going to be fun, but I didn't expect it to be what it was. It was raining and it was miserable and cold but I still thought it was awesome. Maybe because we won too. It was a nice day."

On a cold, dreary, foggy, rain-drenched atmosphere that still housed 46,556 fans that may never get to experience such an event again. Aside from perhaps winning a Stanley Cup, this is right up there with the greatest memories a player can put away.

"That's one of the coolest experiences ever," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "I was thinking about that the other day. I have a big picture in my house. It was incredible. That was quite the experience. It's a lifelong experience. It's something you'll have for the rest of your life. That was obviously unreal."

What's even more unreal is that a year has passed. The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres played in the game on Monday at the home of the New York Mets, Citi Field, a game the Rangers won 3-2 in overtime. 

"A year ago," Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson said in amazement. 

"Is that today," Pietrangelo asked Monday after practice.

Yes, it was.

"... You know what they're going through," Edmundson said. "You want them to enjoy it and take it all in.

"That was a great time. Memories for all the players and all the families. That was an exciting time around St. Louis. It made the game grow more around the community and all that. It was a great time to play in that. Coming from the hotel, going on the bus and seeing everyone tailgating and all that. On the way to the rink, all the excitement. You get there, you're down in the clubhouse, everyone was in the right mindset, everyone's having a good time. Then you go out there and it's cold and loud, foreworks are going off. It was all around a great experience."

"If you ask anyone in this room, that was one of the best experiences ever put on with an incredible experience for the fans, the city, the volunteer work that went in," Blues left wing Scottie Upshall said. "It's a big day for those guys. 'Shatty' gets another crack at it for the second time in as many years. Incredible moments skating around the ice with that crowd. Our baseball stadium was loud and it was rocking. We were all sitting around about this time waiting for the rain to stop and wondering if we were going to even play until later on. That was great. We were in the batting cages right now probably cracking balls and pitching to each other. That was fun. It was great.

"The moment I take off my skates when I'm all said and done in this game, if I hadn't played in something like that, I feel like I have missed out. It was a really cool experience."

Blues goalie Jake Allen was the winning netminder that afternoon and also had the fondest of memories, including one of a former teammate.

"I'm pretty jealous of 'Shatty,'" Allen said of Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who was Allen's teammate in the game last year. "He gets to do it two years in a row. It's an amazing experience. I'm sure they'll enjoy the heck out of it and [Shattenkirk] will even the second time around. It'll be cold there definitely, a lot colder than we had it.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
One year ago, on Jan. 2, 2017, all eyes in the hockey world were focused 
on St. Louis when the Blues hosted the Blackhawks in the Winter Classic.

Allen said he has a framed photo making a save on Jonathan Toews with Busch Stadium in the background. He wouldn't oppose to playing in an outdoor game again.

"I'd love to be able to get us another one here before my time comes to an end," Allen said. "It would be pretty special. I don't know if we'll get (another) game like that. I don't know how that process goes, but I'm sure all of us in here would love to play in another one again, especially the guys who played last year and some of the young guys who haven't had a chance. It's pretty special, especially if we can have another one back in St. Louis. It's pretty special to play in it, but it's even cooler to have it and you're the home team."

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