“Have you always been an avid hockey fan?”
That was a question posed to Marc Long last week, two days after his beloved St. Louis Blues — a team from his home state — finally captured the Stanley Cup trophy.
“I didn’t start out that way,” the Mount Marty College president joked.
No, as it turns out, Long began actively following the sport after he and his twin sons Alex and Andrew began attending games years ago when Long was working at the University of Missouri in Columbia — and later when he was at St. Louis College of Pharmacy.
First, as he pointed out, Long was able to get a discount on Blues tickets, and secondly, the team struggled to the point where fans could find good seats close to the ice.
Either way, they found common ground.
“We really developed a father-and-son bond around hockey,” Long said. “That’s really when our love of hockey started.”
All these years later, the boys — now 21 — and their father were able to share in the joy of a long-awaited championship for their beloved Blues.
St. Louis had been the oldest NHL franchise to have never won the Stanley Cup, but ended a 52-year drought by beating the Boston Bruins last Wednesday for the championship.
There to celebrate at Saturday’s parade in St. Louis? Long’s boys, who undoubtedly barraged their father with text messages, photos and videos.
“They’re older now, but we’ve always maintained that connection with the Blues,” Long said. “We developed a genuine appreciation for the game.”
As the family continued attending Blues games, Long was eventually named Mount Marty’s 11th president in 2015. That meant he would be moving to South Dakota, where the nearest professional hockey team is four hours away in Minnesota.
What Long said he encountered was an area where the hockey attention was split between the Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche. “There’s good hockey competition in South Dakota,” he said.
Just as Long has been able to share in his hockey fandom with his sons, he has been able to pass that passion on to his father — a native Canadian but who has spent most of his life in the United States.
“I don’t think he’s ever watched a hockey game,” Long joked.
His father, though, has given the sport a chance.
“I just told him, ‘Forget about icing or offsides. Just pay attention to when the puck goes in the net. It’s either good or bad,’” Long joked.
Of course, for those long-suffering Blues fans like Long, the bad has usually out-numbered the good.
St. Louis was one of the six original expansion teams to the NHL in 1967 but was the last of the six to win the Stanley Cup.
“They haven’t had a lot of success through the years, so there’s a connection with that city that I don’t see in other professional sports,” Long said. “It’s a deep commitment that a core group of fans have with the team, and it’s vice versa.”
While the St. Louis Cardinals (Major League Baseball) and the former St. Louis Rams (National Football League) have received most of the local media attention because of their successes, the Blues have always maintained a close relationship with their fans, Long added.
Of course, now that the Blues have won a championship and interest in the team will likely pick up next year, Long said he hopes that connection remains the same.
“I hope that never changes,” he said.
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