Even though he has been to a lot of St. Louis Cardinals games, former St. Louis Blues star Al MacInnis was unprepared for the scene that awaited him Saturday at Busch Stadium.
With 40,128 fans filling the baseball home of the Cardinals to watch teams of Blues and Chicago Blackhawks alumni square off in the NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game, the Blues won 8-7 on an outdoor rink intersected by a giant guitar design.
No one will care about the score. It was the memories and getting to see their favorite players on the ice once again that had fans buzzing throughout the stadium.
“Unreal,” said MacInnis, who began the game on a Hall of Fame defense pairing with Chris Pronger. “When you come down here and watch the Cardinals play and look around it’s just an incredible stadium. Leading up to this you try to visualize what it will be like out there, and really you can’t do it justice. Once you step on the ice, it’s just an amazing feeling. It’s incredible. We couldn’t have asked for a better day. We couldn’t have asked for a better game.”
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The outdoor game was a warmup for Monday’s NHL Winter Classic between the Blues and Blackhawks.
The spectacle of the day wasn’t lost on anyone who participated. That includes Blues radio color analyst and former blue-collar Blues winger Kelly Chase, who picked up a goal and assist.
All he needed was a fight to complete the “Gordie Howe hat trick” — a goal, an assist and a fight.
“I just feel lucky that I got to be in it,” the appreciative Chase said. “I feel honored. I feel like the fans deserve a celebration of what they’ve supported for the deep-rooted tradition of St. Louis hockey.”
The game was an emotional celebration of St. Louis hockey.
At one point, former Blues star Keith Tkachuk switched from his familiar No. 7 to wear No. 38 in honor of former Blues star Pavol Demitra, who was killed in a 2011 plane crash in Russia.