ST. LOUIS — If you're a hockey fan in St. Louis, this stretch of the past few years the city has been on has probably seemed like a dream.
In the time span between January 1, 2017 and January 26, 2020, St. Louis will have hosted a Winter Classic, Stanley Cup Final and an NHL All-Star Game.
In the 2016 NHL Draft, there were five St. Louis kids taken in the first round.
The Blues are opening the new Centene Community Ice Center and have revamped Enterprise Center.
We are living in the most exciting time for hockey in St. Louis history, and the rest of the NHL is taking notice.
Let's start in 2016, when Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, Luke Kunin and Trent Frederic were all drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft in Buffalo. St. Louis was the talk of the entire league. Of the 11 American-born players taken that year, five were from our town. That's something to be proud of, and shows just how great the youth programs, especially the Jr. Blues, have been over the years.
Later in 2016, the big boy Blues went on a run that eventually ended two games short of a Stanley Cup Final berth. That was the closest the Blues had come since 2001.
In 2017, St. Louis got its first chance to show just how great a hockey town it really was with the Winter Classic, and it didn't disappoint. The Alumni Game sold out Busch Stadium, and even though mother nature didn't fully cooperate, the Blues and St. Louis showed up in a big way for the main event the town had been clamoring for for years.
Two years later, the downtrodden Blues looked to be backsliding in 2019. They bucked that trend and finished off a worst to first story like we've never seen to capture the franchise's first Stanley Cup in dramatic fashion. The town started the party with a surreal parade down market street, and it appears to still be going strong.
St. Louis will have a chance to shine on the big stage again in 2020, as hockey's best will head to the gateway city for the NHL All-Star Game. Our town has shown it can handle big events. The 2018 PGA Championship, 2017 Winter Classic, Olympic events and and NCAA Championships have proved it.
The Blues are investing in their home and community. Enterprise Center has undergone extensive renovations to enhance the game day experience. The Centene Community Ice Center will be a place the entire area can be a part of.
We know what the lean times felt like in St. Louis, and we know what it means to be overlooked. This time in the spotlight won't last forever, but it's been nice to revel in the glow.
Some day in the future we'll look back on these years as the best we ever saw. Let's embrace it to the fullest.