Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

God Bless These Boys: Blues, 'Hawks Raise Kiel Center Roof

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

God Bless These Boys: Blues, 'Hawks Raise Kiel Center Roof

Article excerpt

Just three minutes into the first Blues-Chicago Blackhawks game at Kiel Center, our Esa Tikkanen and their Chris Chelios were engaged in a strange tribal dance.

Tikkanen buzzed around Chelios, slashing, spearing and high-sticking the evil Hawks defenseman. Chelios blithely hacked and chopped back. As the play ensued, berserk Chicago center Jeremy Roenick came flying at Tikkanen and hacked him to the ice.

God bless these boys. The Blues and Chicago Blackhawks - and their ever-vigilant fans - don't want to let a terrifically ugly rivalry die. They wanted to christen Kiel with some real action.

"Hockey is back," Blues Chairman Mike Shanahan said with a satisfied smile.

Deposed Blackhawks crooner Wayne Messmer set the tone with a typically stirring rendition of the national anthem. This cranked up Chicago Stadium crowds for years and St. Louisans loved it.

For a few seconds there, the record Kiel crowd of 20,286 got so loud that this reporter's ears actually hurt. "I was surprised by the noise level," Messmer said. "I was told it gets lost here. I'm singing and I'm thinking, `These guys are making this happen.' "

Blackhawks fan Rob Sanders shook his head at the thought of Messmer in our house. "What's up with that?" he asked. "That's messed up. That is messed up."

Roenick agreed. "I thought it was weird," he said. "I think it's stupid. He shouldn't be here."

Actually, it was a clever prank that stood as the evening's highlight for Blues fans. There were a few other moments - a Section 329 scuffle involving a yappy Blackhawks fan, a few crunching Tony Twist hits, a Blues fan painted up like The Ultimate Warrior grappling with ushers - in an evening that slowly fizzled out.

But at least there was some animosity.

"Oh yeah, I don't think that will ever change, no matter where we play," career Blackhawks pest Dirk Graham said.

Few local traditions match this intensity. Sure, the Cubs and Cardinals make for terrific parties, but the only blood spills occur in pop-top accidents.

Oh, the hockey memories. The Blues and Blackhawks, The Arena and the Stadium, chants of "Mur-Ray, Mur-Ray" and "Secord (Stinks)," beefy fans throwing down beer and instigating altercations while their husbands cheer them on . …

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