Call me a party pooper as Game Night Revue/Game Time paper celebrates 20 years
GOAL POSTAGE by Rob Stamp
A lot has happened in the 20 years since helping launch the Game Night Revue hockey program with old college drinking buddy Jeff Collins. My wife and I had two kids, one now at Ole Miss and the other just months from conquering high school. The Rams won a Super Bowl and lost another. And now are in the midst of an era defining them as one of the NFL’s all-time laughingstocks. I’ve lost a sister, two grandmothers and a few other relatives along the way, as well as many other terrific friends (some I’ve always considered family). We’ve moved our home and our office and, here lately, watched in horror as areas I roamed as a teenager burned to the ground.
Yet, for all that has changed, some things never do. The song remains the same for the Blues and their fans. I know. I’m one. Having been one since the very beginning, I know that being a Blues fan subjects yourself to a sometimes painful existence, a constant, demoralizing experience season after season after season.
If there was a Team Heartbreak, it would be your Blues. Recite just a few names and events and you know what I’m talking about. There was Bobby Orr’s famous goal and there was Bobby Gassoff’s fateful motorcycle ride. How about Doug Wickenheiser and the snipe hunt, or Doug Gilmour and the babysitter? Steve Payne and Steve Yzerman represent footnotes in unfortunate team history and now we’re forced to watch Jonathan Toews and Jonathan Quick routinely step up to douse all playoff hopes and aspirations for the Blues.
If there was a Team Turmoil, it would be your Blues. Trading away its best talent was never off the table. If you owned a Red Berenson jersey, or one for Joey Mullen, Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates or Brendan Shanahan or Chris Pronger, you could attest to that. The financial foundation for the Blues has always been a little shaky, the Harry Ornest period the lowest of the low. Ralston Purina and other civic leaders may have helped keep the team from moving to Saskatoon, but even some Cat putting the check back into the Checkerdome didn’t magically solve the team’s bottom line. The Game Night Revue came about in part to become the voice of fans who couldn’t fully trust the ownership consortium known as the Kiel Centers Partners and lampooned by us as Chucky’s Sleaze. Deep-pocketed Bill and Nancy Laurie meant well for a spell, but that regime ended about as pleasantly as I expect it will be for St. Louisans when their brother-in-law, Stan Kroenke, picks up his Rams and moves to LA to get even more filthy richer.
There was no more tumultuous period for Team Turmoil than Mike Keenan’s reign of terror that coincided with the opening of the new downtown rink and the emergence of our publication. We were blessed. I swear it was something every day. There was never a shortage of topics for the GNR. Iron Mike’s constant roster churn saw many players we made fun of as opponents instantly become players we made fun of as members of the Blues. It was a cavalcade of Stanley Cup ring bearers, including the greatest player of his or any generation. But even the acquisition of Wayne Gretzky was unable to change the fortunes of the Blues. That season ended just like every other. Well short of the destination.
Other than the one entry draft the broken Blues chose to sit out, it hasn’t been for lack of trying why a league championship continues to elude the team. Ron Caron could almost taste it, not to mention smell it because, as you know, the meat was on the burner. I get the feeling these days that GM Doug Armstrong puts the same confidence in his club that the Professor had for his. Here’s hoping Armey is one day rewarded for his rare combination of bold creativity and patience.
Fun fact: Scott Stevens had more impact on the organization than any other player, though he only wore the Bluenote for 91 games. Credit assists to the dishonorable Judge Edward Houston and trigger happy Jack Quinn for Stevens helping seal the fate of two franchises: The Blues and Devils.
Unfun fact: The team’s uncanny ability to find new ways to run off all the greatest coaches in the game. From Scotty Bowman to Al Arbour to Jacques Demers to Joel Quenneville, there is seemingly always someone going on to make history AFTER leaving the Blues. Here lately, it’s hard not to notice castoffs Mike Kitchen and Davis Payne capturing the Cup as assistant coaches for rival clubs.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Game Night Revue experience, the chance it gave me to be a fan, not a reporter, and provide irreverent commentary in any frickin’ words I wanted. It was a fun time and quite educational. Along the way, I learned the value of Joe Murphy money, wondered what compromising pictures of Coach Q that Mike Eastwood had, laughed at how Mike Ricci had a face even his mother couldn’t love, cringed over how much Towel Boy is in love with himself, and cursed how one really can score a goal from the Jailhouse. Sadly, it became too much a grind and I always felt a little ashamed to feel a small measure of relief when the Blues got eliminated from the playoffs because that meant no more paper and no more deadlines to meet. Finally, after 10 years and another NHL work stoppage, I was done with the paper for good. I honestly haven’t missed it, though I was more than delighted to say yes when asked to contribute something to tonight’s commemorative issue of Game Time.
You could always count on Jeffio going on record in October that the Blues season would end with a first- or second-round playoff exit. Here we are, 10 years later, and he could be writing the same piece. What was true 20 years ago isn’t a whole lot different than the 20 seasons before that. And, you aren’t being very honest with yourself if you expect anything else over the next 20 years. I hope I’m wrong.
Like I said, I’m a fan. It sucks seeing all the teams the Blues came in with now with Cups. Most of the WHA survivors captured titles, as did a Mickey Mouse operation in Anaheim and some outfit called the Tampa Bay Lightning. When you see the Carolina Hurricanes skate the Stanley Cup, you figure it’s only a matter of time before it’s the Blues’ turn. Unfortunately, more time passes and, no matter how high the expectations, the season always provides the same ending. The playoffs end watching another crushing handshake at center ice draped in disappointment and heartbreak for the Bluenote and its backers.
I guess that’s why they call them the Blues.