Mon, Jun 17, 2019 - Page 10 News List

St Louis cheers its NHL champions

FANS, LEADERS:Blues coach Craig Berube said he was happy for the city and the fans, and also hailed the ‘character and leadership’ in his team to win the title

AP, ST LOUIS, Missouri

St Louis Blues player Alexander Steen hoists the Stanley Cup during their victory parade in St Louis, Missouri, on Saturday after winning the Stanley Cup Final.

Photo: AFP

After a half-century of disappointment, even the weather could not spoil the celebration of St Louis’ first-ever Stanley Cup championship.

A morning downpour fizzled to a light rain by the time the parade began on Saturday and the sun popped out just as a rally was starting before a massive crowd on the grounds of the Gateway Arch in Missouri’s second-largest city.

The Blues ended one of sports’ longest championship droughts on Wednesday by beating the Boston Bruins 4-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, the first title for a franchise that joined the NHL 52 years ago. Fans poured into the city for the celebrations.

There were no immediate crowd estimates, but local leaders said they expected at least 500,000 people.

The long-awaited championship stirred strong emotions in St Louis, a city still smarting from the departure of the NFL’s Rams in 2016. The loss of the football team seemed to strengthen the fans’ bonds to the Blues and their beloved baseball team, the Cardinals.

“I’m so happy for the city and the fans here,” coach Craig Berube said at the rally. “They deserve it, but more than anything, I’m so happy for our players because of how hard they’ve played, the character and leadership coming through, winning that cup.”

Ryan Korte, a 56-year-old letter carrier from the St Louis suburb of Belleville, said he was not sure he would ever get to see the Blues win the Cup.

“I was starting to wonder,” Korte said as he waved a towel while standing on a ledge, straining to see the parade. “A lot of disappointments. They’ve had some good teams and they always let us down.”

Not this time.

“This is bigger than the [MLB] World Series,” Korte said.

That might sound strange in St Louis, which has long been considered a baseball haven thanks to the Cardinals’ 11 World Series titles. It sure looked like a hockey town on Saturday, though, as fans shouted “Let’s Go Blues!” and danced to Gloria, the 1982 Laura Branigan hit that became the Blues’ unofficial victory song.

Forward Ryan O’Reilly, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of this year’s playoffs, carried the Stanley Cup to fans lining Market Street to let them touch it.

“The Blues have an amazing fan base,” said Michael DeHeer, 52, of St Louis. “This place is ready to explode.”

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