The St. Louis Blues will play host to the National Hockey League’s All-Star festivities this weekend for only the third time in the team’s history.
And this year’s celebration of all things hockey comes with the Blues sitting at the top of the mountain as Stanley Cup champions and this season's Western Conference points leader.
“Everybody wants a piece of the Blues. Hockey’s never been bigger here. Yeah, winning the Cup helps,” said Cam Janssen, a former player and current St. Louis sports radio talk-show host.
He brings a unique perspective to the festivities, which culminate Saturday night with a three-on-three tournament at Enterprise Center with many of the best players in the world. Janssen is from St. Louis and went to Eureka High School.
He says the game is in a strong position in the region after enduring some tough times.
"It went through different phases," Janssen said.
It was a rough period for the team in the 1970s and part of the '80s, but Janssen said that changed when Brett Hull joined the team in the 1988-89 season.
“That long, long-haired mullet, flying down the wing, scoring 86 goals a year. I mean, that’s unbelievable,” he said.
The addition of Wayne Gretzky in 1996 also helped, though he was on the team for just a few months.
Those players helped inspire Janssen and others, and he said the Stanley Cup win is influencing a new generation.
“You see what happened. What these guys went through, and you’re like, ‘I want to get my kids into that,’” Janssen said. “And now the kids are looking at it like, ‘I want to be that.’”
He says that influence was probably best shown when two players with strong St. Louis connections were leading their teams. Pat Maroon was with the Blues, and Ben Bishop was playing for Dallas.
“Benny Bishop, a Chaminade boy, and Patty Maroon, an Oakville boy, after shaking hands, they had the St. Louis flag in the background, hugging each other,” Janssen recalled.
“Any kid that watches that are like, ‘These two guys did it. One’s from Oakville; the other one’s from Chaminade. Why can’t I be this? Why can’t I do this?’”
Maroon scored a double-overtime winning goal to eliminate Bishop and Dallas. St. Louis rode that momentum to the Stanley Cup.
Janssen will be playing in a Blues alumni game, which is one of several events throughout the weekend that make up the NHL’s annual midseason celebration of the sport.
That should provide a boost for downtown businesses.
“A lot of these restaurants and bar owners that I know are going to make a ton of money 'cause of this.” Janssen said. “That’s what this city needs. That flow of people coming in willing to spend money at the right places downtown.”
That business should be brisk Friday through Saturday.
The NHL has set up several events around Enterprise Center, including a fan fair at Union Station and outdoor concerts at Enterprise Center.
The first features the band O.A.R and begins around 3:30 p.m. Friday.
The rock group Green Day will headline Saturday's free conecert outside the arena. Those festivities start at 5 p.m. Green Day will also play inside Enterprise Center on Saturday night. The band has a marketing deal with the league.
A skills competition and the NHL’s first women’s three-on-three game are set for Friday night.
“They are going to be competitive,” Janssen said. “Mark my words. That will be the highlight of this whole thing.”
The NHL’s All-Star game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday.
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