The words “The St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup Champions,” barely left NBC play-by-play announcer Mike Emrick’s mouth after the Blues defeated the Bruins in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final when a small group of people in Springfield came to a similar conclusion: the Stanley Cup has to come to Springfield.
That group, including attorney Joe Passanise, Ice Bears co-founder Stan Melton and businessman Loren Cook started what would become the committee that organized Springfield’s day with the Cup on Thursday, Oct. 10.
The Stanley Cup is the traveling trophy given every year to the winner of the National Hockey League. The team that wins the Cup tours it the summer after it is won. This mostly involves players, coaches and team staff, but cities near the team can also be selected for a visit.
The three reached out to several members of the Blues’ front office to try to organize a visit.
Melton wrote to Al MacInnis, a former Norris trophy-winning defenseman in the NHL, who is now a senior advisor in the Blues organization. MacInnis’s son Carson is a graduate of Missouri State and played for the Ice Bears.
Passanise wrote to Steve Chapman, who is the executive vice president of the Blues. Cook reached out to Tom Stillman, co-owner of the Blues and team chairman.
Cook received a response quickly. The message he got back said the organization was still determining where the Cup would go, but Springfield would be considered.
That was the extent of the response the group got back — until late July. Passanise finally received an email saying Springfield could have the Stanley Cup.
“I got an email around 7:30 (p.m.), and I responded right away,” said Passanise, who became the chairman of the planning committee. “I was like, ‘are you serious?’ and by 10 o’clock we had the workings together.”
What began as a stop in Springfield as the Cup traveled to Blues minor league teams in Tulsa and San Antonio, quickly took on a life of its own. The planning began with seven members, and by the time the Cup arrived, it was up to 30.
“I don’t know if they had expected the elaborate celebration we ended up putting together,” Melton said. “I asked (Springfield) Mayor (Ken) McClure if he could make it St. Louis Blues Day in Springfield, and he said yes immediately.”
The Cup was flown in from St. Louis at around 11 a.m. From there it was transported to Bass Pro Shops for a private viewing. It was moved to a public viewing area at 3:30 p.m. in front of a crowd of more than 3,000 chanting “Let’s Go Blues.”
It was then moved to Jordan Valley Ice Park, home of the Ice Bears. The Ice Bears and several youth hockey teams took photos with the Cup.
“The Stanley Cup was something you always dream of winning as a kid,” Ice Bears head coach Jeremy Law said. “This is not as good as winning it, but being here is real cool.”
After a public viewing, the Cup was taken to Falstaff’s Local, a downtown bar that is considered one of the main hockey bars in Springfield.
Dave Otto, who is responsible for organizing the Blues’ travels with the Cup, said the team did not expect the day to be this big.
“This is phenomenal — we’re really looking forward to it,” Otto said after the Cup got off of the plane.
The Blues brought several members of their front office to Springfield, including co-owner Stillman. Several former Blues made appearances as well, highlighted by Bobby Plager — an original member of the Blues in 1967.
For some Blues fans around Springfield, the day capped off their experience with the Blues’ championship run.
“I’m not ashamed to say it, I cried pretty hard when they won it,” Ice Bears assistant coach and lifelong Blues fan Brendan McClew said after he took a photo with the Cup. “This has been unreal — I don’t even remember getting my photo taken.”
Law said the day showed how hockey is growing in Springfield. He said the Blues winning the Cup — combined with the Cup coming to Springfield — has helped the sport and the Ice Bears.
“Our first weekend for the team was sold out,” Law said. “I think there is a lot more hockey fans in Springfield now. I’ve met people who didn’t even know there was a rink in Springfield.”
Springfield may have to wait awhile before the next time the Cup makes another visit, but Melton said he was glad to be here when it did.
“I’m hoping this is more than a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Melton said. “I am so thrilled that this happened in my lifetime and I got to experience it.”