ST. LOUIS — After a 51-season wait, the Blues raised the banner for their first Stanley Cup in franchise history Wednesday. And then they played “Gloria” one more time.
The ceremony preceded St. Louis’ season opener against the Washington Capitals, who won their first Stanley Cup one year earlier.
Captain Alex Pietrangelo, the first Blues player to hoist the Cup after they won, again held it, leading the team in a lap around the rink after player introductions.
The arena then blasted “Gloria” by Laura Branigan as the banner was lifted to the rafters, an ode to the team’s post-win anthem throughout last season’s playoffs. Blues players have said they will retire “Gloria” as their theme song this season.
The Blues were unlikely winners after falling to last place in the NHL standings on Jan. 2 with a 15-18-4 record. St. Louis became the first team from the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB to win a title after occupying last place in the standings after one quarter or more of the season.
The Blues’ wait for their first Cup — 51 seasons, 4,046 regular-season games, 4,437 total games — was the longest in NHL history for a team to win its first championship. The Blues also accumulated the most postseason appearances (42), series (72) and games (391) for an NHL team before it won its first Cup.
St. Louis fired coach Mike Yeo on Nov. 20 and named Craig Berube the interim coach; after winning the Cup and being named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, Berube received a three-year contract extension from the Blues this summer.
Before Wednesday’s game, Berube was asked what he would be thinking about during the banner raising ceremony. “Just the game,” the matter-of-fact Berube said. “That’s it.”
“We talked to our players that you just got to keep everything in check and narrow your focus,” Berube added. “It’s a great thing, obviously, the banner raising, but when that’s done you gotta turn the switch on and play. And not try to do too much too early. I think it’s important to do your job and play a simple game.”
The Blues rallied last season behind a supportive city, but also found inspiration from an 11-year-old fan, Laila Anderson, who has a life-threatening autoimmune disease.
On Tuesday, Blues players Alexander Steen and Colton Parayko surprised Anderson with a championship ring. In a video captured by the Blues that has since gone viral, Steen and Parayko arrived at Anderson’s house with the gift. Anderson was nearly speechless when she received the ring, repeatedly saying: “Oh my god. Oh my god.”
“She’s been a big part of our group for a long time now,” Steen said Wednesday. “She truly does inspire us and continues to inspire us. It was special to be able to be the guys to go to her house and give her the ring.”
“Laila” is inscribed in each of the rings, as are the words “Play Gloria” and a depiction of the championship parade at the Gateway Arch.
“They nailed it, they really nailed it,” Steen said. “Just little details — just the story behind every little detail on the ring, makes them so much more special. The whole ring signified the whole run that we had — how everyone was connected and involved.”
Wednesday marked the first time since 1962 that the previous two winners of the Stanley Cup met in the season-opening game for both teams.