PENDLETON – After more than 50 years of waiting, many fans still can’t believe their beloved St. Louis Blues ended one of sports’ longest championship droughts when they defeated the Boston Bruins to bring home their first Stanley Cup title in June.
Eric and Mel Spires still can’t believe the world-traveling Stanley Cup was brought to the bar they own in Warren County. They are pinching themselves. It definitely happened.
An ordinary Saturday turned into an unforgettable one when the Blues came marching unexpectedly into Sidetracked AGAIN Bar & Grill on Kelling Lane at 2 p.m. That’s precisely when hockey’s premier prize arrived during St. Louis native Pat Maroon’s day with the Stanley Cup.
“I was shell shocked,” Eric said. “We didn’t know they were coming, and I didn’t know what to say or do. I was just shocked as all get-out. They came in, started screaming and we all had a good time.”
Making up Maroon’s entourage were Conn Smythe winner and teammate Ryan O’Reilly, about a dozen family and friends, a pair of policemen. Also in tow was keeper of the Cup, Phillip Pritchard, whose job is to make sure the 3-foot-high, 35-pound trophy stays intact while escorting it far and wide and, in this case, to Warren County.
There were only a couple of bar patrons on-hand at Sidetracked when the gang came through the door. Nevertheless, Maroon, a gracious guest, personally brought the Cup filled with Anheuser-Busch beer around for each one of the assembled to have a frosty cold one on a hot summer's day.
Eric was the first to take a swig, which snapped a personal drought of his own making.
“I haven’t drank in eight years, but I was for sure going to drink out of the Cup,” he said. “That’s something you never think is going to happen. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Maroon’s visit was brief, a 30-minute impromptu pit stop before heading off for a private outing at a nearby family farm and lake property.
In fact, Mel almost missed out on the Cup encounter. She was running errands when her husband alerted her to what was happening.
“I could tell it wasn't a prank by the excitement in his voice,” she said. “He could barely even speak so I knew the Blues were actually here.”
Mel was stoked. She received superstar treatment once she arrived.
“They were ready to leave, but waited for me,” she said. “They were chanting my name when I came in and everyone was clapping. O’Reilly (a Clinton, Ontario native) said ‘Put a Bud Light in there, eh,’ and poured one in for me. It was the coolest thing ever, because I’d been chanting their names all season. They even recorded a video message for my son, who was in Colorado for his 21st birthday. You have no idea what this meant. Just unreal.”
A lifelong fan, Mel has fond memories of attending games at the old St. Louis Arena as a youth.
“We’d go to the Checkerdome with my church group all the time,” she said. “Five-dollar seats. It was crazy.”
But other diehard fans weren’t as lucky as the Spires and the Sidetracked crew on Saturday. They had to live the unexpected event through social media.
The St. Louis Blues posted their adventure to the county watering hole on the team’s Instagram Page with the caption: “Oops we got Sidetracked Again," which included a photo of the front of the bar and its phone number.
The post has received over 16,500 likes and triggered a frenzy of Cup chasers, pining for a chance to see hockey’s holy grail in all of its majesty.
“We had every bit of 150 phone calls and at least 80 people show up, a lot we’ve never seen before, came running in,” Eric said.
“I spent the whole day answering the phone and everyone wanted in to see if Lord Stanley was still in the building,” Mel added. “And poor little thing, we had one girl, who couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years-old and plays hockey, come in with her grandpa, hoping to see the Blues. You wish everyone could have been here to experience it. But unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. We were as surprised as anyone.”
Before getting sidetracked at Sidetracked, Maroon celebrated his day with the Cup by first eating a breakfast of Cinnamon Toast Crunch out of it with his son, Anthony, at his home in Clayton. Then taking the Cup to an invitation-only event at All-American Sports Mall in South County where he grew up playing roller hockey. Then having a lunch at Charlie Gitto’s on the Hill where he munched on toasted ravioli from the Cup with super-fan Laila Anderson.
"It’s obviously a good day,” Maroon told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “but a stressful day at the same time. It’s like planning a wedding to have everyone see it.”
No matter what sweater the unrestricted free agent is wearing next winter, Mel will be forever grateful for Maroon’s surprise visit in Pendleton, a town whose only other landmarks include a church and a fire station. Pendlteon has less than 50 residents.
“We’re not even a town, we’re a village,” she said. “And the fact that he shared it with us means so much. Even before this was said and done, we watched the victory parade in downtown St. Louis on the TVs here and seeing the way they celebrated their championship with the community is just unbelievable. You couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”
“LGB!” was her final pronouncement. For the uninitiated, that means: Let's Go Blues!