MARXKORS: Game 7 was St. Louis' homemade spectacle

Maroon threw his arms around Bishop, and for a split second—a split second—they were just a couple of St. Louis boys, playing hockey at 14th and Clark

May 08, 2019 - 6:04 pm

By Amy Marxkors

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The stage was set for a spectacle. A climactic Game 7. A conflict of Central Division rivals. And two hometown kids—Oakville’s Pat Maroon and Chaminade’s Ben Bishop—who would emerge as the triumphant protagonist and extinguished antagonist of the play, respectively.

With a trip to the Western Conference Final on the line, the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars battled with heart-stopping stinginess and classic Aristotelian drama, right down to the score—and, no, not the 2-1 double-overtime final, but the disco-pop soundtrack that has both vandalized the eardrums and buoyed the hearts of this city.

Last night was indeed a spectacle, one we will talk about for weeks and months and years to come. It will weave its way so inextricably into the fabric of Blues lore that it, like the Monday Night Miracle, will become part of the franchise’s very selfhood. The rookie goaltender. (Does he look nervous?) The “interim” head coach. (Ha!) The Blues’ 54 (54!) shots on goal. The close calls. The big hits. And, of course, the providential convergence of the “sevens”:

Game 7. May 7. The Pat Maroon rally towels emblazoned with number 7. And that goal (that goal!) by none other than No. 7, who swooped past the seemingly impenetrable Bishop before sending the puck across the goal line and the Enterprise Center into dance anthem pandemonium.

With their ticket to the Western Conference Final secured, the Blues lined up at center ice across from the Dallas Stars for one of the NHL’s grandest traditions. The two teams shook hands and patted shoulders and smiled and nodded and offered congratulations and compliments and the pleasantries of good sportsmanship. Coaches. Captains. All-Stars. Fourth-liners.

And soon enough, Pat Maroon stood next to Ben Bishop.

Maroon threw his arms around Bishop, and for a split second—a split second—they were just a couple of St. Louis boys, playing hockey at 14th and Clark.

(Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)
Yes, last night was a spectacle. But even more importantly, it was homemade.

That picture—the picture—of Maroon and Bishop embracing, the flag of St. Louis providing a dramatic backdrop, is rooted in 1967. The fields were tilled and planted by Bobby Plager and the upstart expansion Blues who made three consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final. The Blues of the 1960s and 1970s established St. Louis as a hockey town. Plante. Hall. Berenson. Bobby and Barclay. The Checkerdome was a fitting venue for spectacle.

And hockey in St. Louis grew.

In 1988, the team took at chance on a kid from the Calgary Flames, a kid who would become the face of the franchise, the Golden Brett, and one of the greatest goal-scoring spectacles in NHL history.

And hockey in St. Louis grew.

There was Al MacInnis and his lethal slapshot. Fans held their breath and goalies trembled every time Chopper wound up for a shot, a regular spectacle from the blue line.

And hockey in St. Louis grew.

And then The Great One came to town. He pulled on the Blue Note and enchanted even the most casual of fans, some of whom (like me) were kids, who then started playing hockey on the driveway and then bought skates and took to the ice for the first time, if only to be closer to the dazzling spectacle that wore number 99.

And hockey in St. Louis grew.

With every spectacle, the fields expanded, and with every year, the Blues franchise and concentrated core of alumni—arguably the best in the National Hockey League—tended to the harvest.

There were 12 American-born players selected in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Five of them were from St. Louis. The hockey world praised the city as a hotbed of young talent.

And hockey in St. Louis grew.

The spectacle of the 2017 NHL Winter Classic gripped St. Louis, as will the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, which will bring not only the league’s most spectacular stars to the Enterprise Center, but new eyes to the sport and—no doubt—young athletes to local rinks. Either way—whether you grow the players or the audience—you are growing. In this way, spectacles are a high yield return.

Last night, indeed, was a spectacle. It was written in St. Louis and in many ways by St. Louis. And no matter what happens with this 2018-19 team—a spectacle in and of itself—hockey fans in St. Louis will always remember that goal in double overtime. The rookie goaltender. The “interim” coach. Hometown kid versus hometown kid.

On that Tuesday night in St. Louis (sing Gloria!), hockey in St. Louis grew.

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