Thursday, January 4, 2018

Let's Go Blues!

 Ever since we first found out that Grace had infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy, we have dedicated as much time as we can to give our little girl as many awesome life experiences as possible. As the calendar flipped over to 2018, we are already off an running with that mission. While we aren't the biggest hockey fans on the planet, going to a St. Louis Blues game has been on our short list of Grace experiences for some time. I don't really follow the Blues, but a number of my friends do and I'm always intrigued by the passion that they have for their team. 

Grace was all ready for her first Blues game with a new shirt!
For one reason or another, we've never made it to the Scottrade Center to catch a game in person. We've been able to take Grace to several St. Louis Cardinal games, college football and basketball games and other memorable events, but the Blues' scheduled hadn't meshed with ours yet. That streak came to an end on Tuesday, Jan. 2, when we finally made it to see the Blues take on the New Jersey Devils. 

The tickets were actually a gift from my siblings, who knew that we wanted to make it to a game. To make sure that we didn't schedule anything for that date (it happens a lot with us), my sister Mikaela told us in advance to save that day for something special. Still we had no idea what it was going to be until Christmas Day, when we opened up a present for Grace and saw three tickets to the game. As Mikaela explained, it was a nearly perfect trip for us. The Blues were playing the Devils, who I quasi-rooted for when I was a kid. I loved Martin Brodeur, who was the goalie for New Jersey and later for St. Louis. I still have the jersey, although I opted for a Grace T-shirt for the game instead so not to draw the ire of the St. Louis faithful. 

Family photo after the game!
The game was also Mizzou Night, a special theme night where the Blues gave away soccer-style scarves with the Blues and Mizzouri Tigers logo on them, along with the letters M-I-Z B-L-U, a play on Mizzou's rallying cry. With Mary's love of all things Mizzou and my collection of soccer scarves, it was a perfect fit for us. 

We anxiously waited for the day of the game and headed for St. Louis with the girls after Mary and I got off work. In retrospect, we should have probably left a little sooner, but we're newbies at this so we ran into a little bit of traffic. Or at least I think it was traffic. I've been in parking lots that moved faster. After a slight delay, we parked in a garage down the street from the Scottrade Center and walked as quickly as we could in the frigid temperatures. 

Hanging out with Charley in the second period.
Charley wasn't as excited as me about the new Mizzou scarf!
Once we got in, we went to get our scarves and find our seats. They were absolutely perfect. Mikaela had contacted the Blues to try to find a good fit for our family and came up huge. We were in the third row of the upper deck, with no stairs to go up or down. Our usher helped us store Grace's stroller in the handicap accessible section, which was right next to our seats. 

As we settled into our seats, me holding Grace and Mary holding Charlotte, I was immediately struck by the atmosphere of the game. It was just about to start the second period (yeah, we should have left earlier) and the sounds and sights were amazing. With music and horns blaring, the Blues skated onto brilliant white ice that seemed to illuminate the whole arena. Grace has always loved loud noises and bright lights and she smiled often as the game restarted. 

The only thing better than watching Grace's reaction was watching Charley's. She's one of the most expressive little girls I've ever seen and at 10 months old, a professional hockey game was almost too much for her to stand. She bounced. She smiled. She yelled in joy. It was infectious. It brought a smile to my face and Mary's immediately and to many others sitting around us, including the gentleman sitting next to Charley that she befriended immediately. 

Grace was all smiles for most of the game, taking in all the sights and sounds.
As the game went on, it just got better. We had nachos and Mary fed Grace her dinner (unfortunately Pediasure doesn't make a nacho flavored shake, or perhaps fortunately). I got the chance to hold Charley, which was quite a work out, but a really fun one. The game itself had a little bit of everything, with the Blues coming away with the win in a shootout. Even hockey novices like Mary and I were in awe of some of the things that happened on the ice, particularly Blues' goalie Carter Hutton almost single handedly willing his team to overtime, then a victory. 

After the game we made the run back to the van and got the girls in their pajamas for the hour drive home. Charley, who remained her happy, bouncy self for the entire game, fell asleep immediately, while Grace dozed a little, but stayed awake. I know that Grace only understands a little bit of what goes on around her, but I'd like to think that she was just too excited to sleep on the way home. 

While it's taken us a long time to make it to a Blues game, it won't be our last. I'm not sure we will ever be the biggest hockey fans in the area, although I can't speak for Charley, but the atmosphere and kindness of those we encountered at the game will bring us back someday for sure. As they say at the Scottrade Center, "Let's Go Blues!"


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