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It was filled—with people wearing Saint Louis Blues jerseys.
"All filled up!"
Of course, I was wearing a Blackhawks cap.
I had stumbled into the enemy territory of a formal Blue Crew road trip to Chicago, presided over by none other than Bob Plager, the old Saint Louis defenseman renowned, along with his brother Barclay, as one of the most lethal and nefarious practitioners of the hip check. The car was filled with people wearing Blues jerseys, T-shirts, and caps. The only guy not outfitted in Blues paraphernalia had a short Mohawk, dyed blue of course, and a T-shirt reading, "Drinks well with others." As I sidled toward the back of the car, I approached one guy wearing a Blues jersey—and a red Hawks cap. A friendly sign, I thought. Yet it turned out to have been a freebie given out at the stadium on a previous Blue Crew foray into Chicago, and the bill had been signed by Plager himself: "Hawks suck! Plager 5."
Most had a Budweiser in hand, usually in some sort of personal beer hug-'em. A couple guys had jester hats and Mardi Gras beads—the better to complement their Blues jerseys.
They were yelling and shouting and talking and playing games. Every once in a while, someone snuck a cigarette toward the rear of the car. I felt I was on the train with the Ale & Quail Club.
Yet the first few formal greetings of antagonism out of the way, they were also surprisingly welcoming. Most of the guys in the back were standing in the aisle anyway, so they waved me to an open seat. They were friendly and chortling and well lubricated, with plans to drink all night in preparation for the 11:30 AM drop of the puck at the United Center on Sunday (originally a two o'clock matinee moved up after being adopted by NBC's Game of the Week).
One of the guys in jester hats said he was missing his first Saint Louis Mardi Gras parade in years just to make the trip. I recommended Heaven on Seven to make up for it.
When we paused for signal clearance just outside Chicago, the entire car broke into a chant of "Let's go Blues!"
Later, someone monitoring the Hawks'game in Columbus shouted, "Chicago's losing, 1-0."
"Yay!" Everyone else replied.
Yet the Hawks scored the next six goals to win their second straight, and John Scott got in a good pummeling along the way, just in time for critical division games against the Blues and then the hated Detroit Red Wings Tuesday. So watch out, Blue Crew.
Still, if you saw a bunch of boozy Blues rooters at the United Center Sunday, I hope you were hospitable.
They offered the same to this Hawks fan.