“Laila. We did it, princess.” When Blues winger Patrick Maroon, a St. Louis native, found 11-year-old Superfan Laila Anderson in the stands and screamed those words after a 4-1 victory against the Bruins in Boston for the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history, St. Louis fans across the nation cheered.
St. Louis surprised Laila and, with permission from her doctors, flew her to Boston to be with them for Game 7.
They brought her onto the ice for the celebration, 52 years in the making.
Colton Parayako kissed the trophy and then the big, burly St. Louis defenseman took a knee, holding the trophy so Laila could kiss it.
That is when the cheers simply turned to tears.
Laila, 11, is battling a life-threatening autoimmune disease.
While she was fighting her battle in the hospital, the St. Louis Blues were fighting for their playoff lives on the ice.
As she continued to fight, the St. Louis Blues kept winning and winning and winning.
There are Cinderella stories and then there are real life tales like Laila and the St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis was in last place in the National Hockey League in January. They fired their head coach and brought in Craig Berube as interim head coach.
Every great run needs a theme song. The Blues found their jam at Jacks, a night club in South Philadelphia the night before a game against the Flyers on Jan. 6.
Alexander Steen, Robert Bortuzzo and Joel Edmundson heard the D.J. play “Gloria,” a hit by Laura Branigan in 1982 that went to No. 2 on the U.S. charts and the song struck a note with the team.
From then on, the song “Gloria,” would blare in the locker room following each St. Louis Blues victory.
The Blues brought up rookie goalie Jordan Binnington. Drafted by St. Louis with the 88th pick in the third round in 2011, Binnington had nowhere to play in 2017 and was loaned out to the Providence Bruins.
The St. Louis Blues under the watchful eye of their Superfan Laila ended the regular season by winning 30 of their last 49 games.
Maroon scored the game-winning goal in game seven against the Dallas Stars in double-overtime, sending the St. Louis Blues to the Western Conference Finals.
The Blues scored a 5-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970 when Hall of Famer Bobby Orr scored the game-winning overtime goal to lead Boston to a four-game sweep of St. Louis.
St. Louis, an expansion team in 1967, advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in each of its first three seasons, falling to the Montreal Canadians in 1968 four games to none with every game decided by one goal, and losing to the Canadians four games to none in 1969 and a four games to none sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins in 1970.
After losing game six to Boston at home in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, there were some wondering if this was going to be the year or not.
Considering how the season had gone, I knew the St. Louis Blues were going to win it on the road. Nothing had come easy for this team.
The Blues were 6-7 at Eneterprise Center in St. Louis. No team had ever won the Stanley Cup Finals with a losing record at home.
After 52 years, why not the St. Louis Blues?
The team not only lost Game 6 at home, but got blown out in a 5-1 loss.
No team was better at coming back from a loss than the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blues were 7-3 after a loss.
St. Louis was also hot on the road in the playoffs, going 9-4 heading into Game 7 in Boston.
Worried? Please, from where I was sitting, the St. Louis Blues had the Boston Bruins right where they wanted them.
Speaking of where I was sitting for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Boston, well, that is another story.
I was outside under the stars for production of the Wizard of Oz at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Mo.
I know what you are thinking. After waiting five decades to see the Blues in the Stanley Cup Finals, couldn’t I have taken a night off? Sure, but Paola’s talented Ella Grayham from the Paola School of Dance was performing in the play as one of the Munchkins. How could I miss that?
So there I was checking my phone with updates from my six siblings in St. Louis, Overland Park, Indiana and San Diego.
“Go Blues baby, up by two,” was the first text to reach me, coming from my twin brother Ray in Indiana.
“Five minutes left in second period and Blues still up two to nothing.”
Our publisher Brian McCauley gave me the 2-0 score as the game headed into the third period.
“3-0! This game is super intense,” McCauley later texted me.
“Three to nothing with 10 minutes left in the third period. Ten minutes left from the Stanley Cup, baby,” Ray texted. “4-0 with five minutes left.”
The next text was from my life-long friend and sports fan in St. Louis Mark Salee.
“Stanley Cup Champions!!!,” Mark texted.
“We did it!!” soon followed from Ray.
“Blues are champions for the first time! Play Gloria forever!” Brian texted.
“Goosebumps, still!!! Mark texted.
It brought back memories for all of us. Mark’s father Carl used to run the Suburban North Hockey League in St. Louis in the late 60s and early 70s. Mark was at the rink and in the stands a lot to see his brothers Mike, Dennis and Jim play.
“It was great to see my team hoist the cup,” John said. “I almost can’t believe it. It was awesome. Just like I always dreamed. After the loss at home, I figured it was over, but Kevin reminded me how good we have been on the road and how Binnington always bounced back after a loss.
“He was unbelievable in Game 7,” John said. “You need to watch a replay when you get a chance. I don’t know how we survived the first period. It was nothing short of a miracle.”
“It was an emotional night and a very long day at work the next day,” Terry said. “I still cannot believe it.”
I had two messages in my voice mail. One was Ray’s family screaming “Go Blues.” The second was from my friend Jeff, a longtime Chicago fan, congratulating me. For the first time, I know how the Cubs and Kansas City Royals fans felt.
I couldn’t hold back the tears. The Stanley Cup, after all of our heartbreaks, was something you didn’t even dream about.
I started thinking of the St. Louis greats who never won a Stanley Cup with the Blues like Bernie Federko, Brett Hull, Brian Sutter, Bob Plager, Barclay Plager, Al MacInnis and Bob Gasshoff.
The St. Louis Blues won the cup for Laila, for all of the former players to wear the Blue note and for fans all over the country. St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup champions.