As I grew up in Arab in the early 1970s, one of my passions was listening to powerful AM radio stations at night.
My two favorites were KMOX out of St. Louis (for sports) and WLS out of Chicago (for music). You could only hear these stations at night but once the sun went down, they were usually very clear.
A fond memory of mine was riding with my dad to St. Louis while I was in the eighth grade. I got off for school for one week, and I was so looking forward to listening to KMOX all day long.
Well, I did that (and a whole lot more) but I was disappointed to find out I was getting at night all the sports shows and games KMOX offered. During the day, it was mostly news and non-sports talk shows.
Anyway, some of my childhood memories involved listening to the St. Louis Blues hockey. I was a tremendous fan of the Blues’ play-by-play announcer, Dan Kelly. I remember a lot of the names from those early teams: Al Arbor, Barclay Plager and his brother Bob, Phil Goyette and Red Berensen.
I hated it when the Blues traded Berensen but it did bring to the team Garry Unger, another of my favorites.
Listening to the Blues was exciting in the early 1970s and that’s because they made it to the Stanley Cup finals their first three years of existence, making their home games major events that were well-attended by rabid fans.
So, even though I found myself pulling for the Blues to win the Stanley Cup on Wednesday, I knew not one player on the team because the last time I listened was in the 1970s. I did know enough to know that Brett Hull became one of their biggest stars a few years later.
As I did a little research Thursday after they won the Cup for the first time, I was stunned to learn a few things about the Blues and their checkered history.
• They went to those early Stanley Cup finals because the NHL rigged it so one of the six 1967 expansion teams would make it.
• Even though the Blues had the early success, they were the last of those six expansion franchises to win the Cup.
• The Blues changed hands and nearly went out of business (or nearly moved) several times over the years.
• I couldn’t have known it at the time, but those early radio broadcasts were simulcast on local TV. In 1979, they finally split into separate TV and radio broadcasts. Kelly stayed on radio. The new TV announcer for the St. Louis Blues? None other than the Voice of the Tide, Eli Gold.
The Blues’ success this season had to be an unexpected joy to their fans. They fired their head coach in November and replaced him with (still-interim head coach) Craig Berube.
On Jan. 1, they were in dead last in the NHL standings. They then became just the seventh team since 1967 to make the playoffs after being in last place on Jan. 1.
They were so bad, one St. Louis fan visiting Las Vegas got 250-to-1 odds on them to win the championship. He put up $400, so when they won, his ticket was worth $100,000.
I guess some Blues fans are more excited than others.