This post and the several that precede are a retelling of my experience on my first ever road trip. The trip started in Newark, NJ, went through Pittsburgh, stopped in Cleveland, continued on to Indianapolis, landed in Saint Louis, and the final stop was in Nashville. Along the way, I would see 5 games in 5 days with a grand total of 7 games in 8 days and travel about 2,100 miles by car. Yes, it was as crazy as it sounds. But, to me, it was the perfect way to end 2016 and kick off 2017.
New Year’s Eve. Usually a day built up with so much hype that is supposed to end in a wild party of some sort. That was never my style. Which is why I was so happy that the NHL introduced a new New Year’s Eve tradition.
First up is the The Alumni Game, and this year’s was one of the best ones yet.
I woke up early so I would have plenty of time to get down to the stadium and enjoy the fan village. The NHL does these type of fan plazas right outside the stadium for the outdoor games; and while they are all pretty similar in design the fan’s make it a different experience.
I walked from the hotel to Busch Stadium. It is pretty easy to find – just follow the road to the Gateway Arch, and the stadium is essentially around the corner. Also, if I was having any trouble, there were plenty of Blues fans leading the way.
I turned around the corner and took in the sight. The view of fans packing the fan plaza, the stadium decorated in retro NHL banners, and scalpers lined along the way asking ‘you need tickets,’ ‘I need tickets.’ For an alumni game, this place was buzzing.
The NHL has stepped up their game for these alumni games. My last one was between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings. I felt like I was a kid again watching that historic rivalry on the ice. However, this game in St. Louis was a little more special. I never had the chance to watch The Great One live. I have seen the highlights and heard the stories. But, I figured my chance to see him was a thing of imagination. That is the beauty of these alumni games. I got my chance. No, it wasn’t in his prime. For someone who didn’t grow up in that era, it is the chance of a lifetime. I can say I got the chance to watch Gretzky play hockey.
With the likes of Gretzky, Tkachuk, and Marty playing, fans packed the stadium. Of course they are playing the Bladckhawks – the NHL’s favorite outdoor team. I’ve seen Chicago play once, and their fans came in large chunks and we noticeable throughout the stadium. St. Louis was a little different though. I saw a sea of blue (and a lot of the throwback baby blue jersey they were rocking for the actual game), sprinkled with some red and white for Hawks fans. St. Louis showed why they have long deserved the honor of hosting the special event.
If you weren’t buying it at the Alumni Game, how about on January 2nd – gameday – when fans packed the arena, fan plaza, and the bars around Busch Stadium in rainy, dreary, 45 degree weather. The weather was just a part of the memories for these fans. They have waited years to see this happen, and they were not about to let weather ‘rain of their parade’ if you will.
Busch Stadium is perfectly positioned in the city – the arch perfectly visible from inside the stadium. Normally home to the Cardinals, seeing a hockey rink placed where the mound normally sits was quite the view. I know many people say that the NHL is over-doing these outdoor games, and that the “specialness” of them is wearing off. That is just wrong. Every place I have seen these games is special. It will never get old hearing the shock and amazement of fans when they see the ice the first time. It will never get old talking to fans who say “I am just so happy to be here and be a part of this.” Hearing those things and seeing those views makes it all worth it.
Plus, and Blues victory always helps.
Final Stop: Nashville
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