Greg Schoemehl, of St. Louis, started his camp out in downtown St. Louis at 2 a.m. Saturday to make sure he had a good spot for the parade along Market Street.
But that wait was nothing compared to how long the 63-year-old, and the rest of the region, waited for the St. Louis Blues to capture their first Stanley Cup.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I want to be part of it,” Schoemehl said. “It’s like that first kiss, you’ll never forget it.”
Schoemehl was one of the tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of fans to celebrate the team’s 2019 Stanley Cup championship.
They came from all over the St. Louis metropolitan area, some packing MetroLink trains three to four hours before the parade was scheduled to step off from the Enterprise Center.
The Blues defeated the Boston Bruins 4 games to 3, capping off the seven-game series with a 4-1 victory on Wednesday.
During the parade, people blew vuvuzelas and car horns that were accompanied by cheers of “Let’s Go Blues!”
Before and during the parade, the team’s anthem for the year, “Gloria,” played from radio speakers along the route.
Players were slowly driven down Market Street from the Enterprise Center to the Arch in convertibles and pickup trucks. At times, players such as Zach Sanford, Jordan Binnington, Jake Allen, Vince Dunn and Ryan O’Reilly, the series MVP, walked over to the crowd to sign autographs, take selfies, and drink beers.
Rookie goaltender Binnington also drove a scooter for part of the route down Market Street.
Between 7th Street and Broadway, Blues forward and native St. Louisan Patrick Maroon carried and hoisted the cup bringing it to both sides of the street as fans sought to see the trophy. Cars carrying coaches, General Manager Doug Armstrong, the team’s broadcasters and owner, Tom Stillman, were also part of the parade.
Interim Head Coach Craig Berube said he was overwhelmed by the show of support from the fans.
George, 65, and Pam Demetrulias, 63, of Waterloo, were among those to take the MetroLink into St. Louis, which was standing room only as people headed to the parade hours earlier.
“We’ve been Blues fans forever,” Pam Demetrulias said. “We’ve been Blues fans for a long, long time.”
They are former season ticket holders who had to give them up while they used to work an early shift.
“I think it might be happening again,” said Pam Demetrulias, referring to getting season tickets. The couple are now retired.
They watched the game from home on Wednesday night, where they screamed at their television in their basement.
“I got excited when it got down to the last minute,” George Demetrulias said.
While thousands lined the parade route, many thousands more were waiting on the Arch grounds for a rally that followed.
Ryan Korte, a 56-year-old letter carrier from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois, said he wasn’t sure he’d ever get to see the Blues win a cup.
”I was starting to wonder,” Korte said as he waved a towel while standing on a ledge, straining to see the parade. “A lot of disappointments. They’ve had some good teams and they always let us down.”
Not this time.
”This is bigger than the World Series,” he said.
As part of 9-year-old Owen Pfeffer’s birthday, his parents, Jeremy and Monica Pfeffer, both 37, brought their son and his 11-year-old sister, Lydia, to the parade so they could see the Stanley Cup.
The Edwardsville family delayed a party at the Edge in Belleville to make the championship celebration part of their day.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, at least for us,” Jeremy Pfeffer said. “The Stanley Cup is the hardest championship to win.”
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.