St. Louis Blues: Why I miss the St. Louis Arena

The Kiel Center might be the House that Hull built, but it still has not quite replaced the Old Barn for me. I’m not even that old either.

Clearly it is a dead period for the St. Louis Blues. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about something a bit off the cuff while we wait for the Penguins to take down the Predators…I mean, I have no vested interest.

via GIPHY

So, for the younger members of the audience, you won’t have any idea what I’m talking about. A generation has grown up with the Kiel Center/Saavis Center/Scottrade Center being the only home for the Blues they have known.

From my point of view, you all missed out. While the Blues never won the big one in either of their houses, they made some great memories in the old St. Louis Arena.

Just as a preface, I’m not that old. At 35, I’m at that age that I grew up with the Arena but am not old enough to have any grudges against a new place to play either.

The new arenas have more amenities. They’ve got concession stands with gourmet food, or at least as close as you’ll get at a place accessible by thousands of people at one time.

The seats in the present day arenas are definitely more comfortable. While people like my parents, who got stuck in some very tight seats this season might disagree, the old arenas had every seat pretty tight.

The lighting is much better at the new arenas, there are better bathroom facilities and of course, there are more opportunities for the team. They have more advertising space, more suites for the upper echelon of society and better media space too.

For your average Joe, the Arena was exactly what it needed to be. The St. Louis Arena was a great place to watch a hockey game.

Even though you were cramped and there was not enough space between you and the row in front, there was hardly a bad seat in the place. Ok, that might not be true since the actual seats were a bit iffy, but the sight lines were good.

The old arenas, like the Arena or Chicago Stadium, put you right on top of the action. Players used to comment how it felt like the people in the upper balconies were hanging over you.

That created a special atmosphere. There was a palpable energy in the building that almost made it feel alive, even during the winter doldrums.

While I have no problems with the Scottrade, I just have so many fond memories in the Arena.  It was the home of the Blues at the height of Brett Hull and Curtis Joseph, many childhood favorites.

Not all of the memories were hockey related though.

When I was young, I played an indoor soccer game at the Arena before a St. Louis Storm game when. I remember standing on the bench and noticing the ice actually coming under the boards onto the floor.

I remember seeing current Saint Louis FC coach and former U.S. National Team player, Preki, playing for the Storm and scoring goals with ease. After the Storm were gone, the Ambush came in. Though they won their championship in the season they played at Scottrade, they had some good teams at the Arena.

I remember one of my first hockey games, going to see the Chicago Blackhawks and fights breaking out in the bathroom and concourse. As a kid, it was fascinating to know they let cats loose in the building at night to catch mice. Of course, when you get older, you realize the health hazards, but it is still a fond memory.

I got to see Hulk Hogan go against Macho Man Randy Savage at the St. Louis Arena. Though it was over before it began, even seeing the St. Louis Vipers roller hockey team was fun.

Clearly, growing up with the Arena shades some of my opinion.  So does some of the things that happened there.

The Blues and Blackhawks had their most epic encounters in the days of the Stadium and the Arena. It was not until the last few years that both teams were actually good enough to consider it a true rivalry again.

The fights were just spectacular and to borrow a phrase from Gorilla Monsoon, you could cut the electricity with a knife. The place could get so loud, you would literally think the roof might blow off, especially when there was something special to cheer about.

I think what makes the story of the Old Barn even sadder was the fact it was not allowed to be saved. People tried and the citizens wanted it kept.

It could have turned into something special. The Montreal Forum was turned into a shopping/entertainment area and there is a section dedicated to the hockey aspect of the building. The Arena could have been that for St. Louis.

Instead, the company that owned the Kiel wanted no competition and forced the city to rush into taking it down. As a kid, I thought the demolition was cool, but now I look back and wish we still had the building.

I’ve often wondered why nobody builds them like they used to, where the inhabitants are right on top of everything. The almighty dollar is the answer. You have to have the high money suites to make a buck these days.

Sadly, there might not be the appetite for it either. Fans like their cushy seats and amenities.

Still, there was something about being part of nearly 20,000 people unified as one. Sure, you knew the seats by the glass were more expensive but you didn’t get the elitist feel of today’s arenas.

While they are nicer and brighter, sometimes it feels like a class war in seating. You get your posh people who sometimes could care less about the game, sitting on their phones down low and the hardcore people who want to dance and chant up high.

Then again, perhaps I am doing what all people do when looking back. Perhaps I am too nostalgic and the positives were not that great.

For me, they were though. If there was a way to get the nicer seats in an old barn type setting, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

The St. Louis Arena just had that feel of having the old ghosts around like other arenas of the day. Today’s arenas are great, but lack that same soul. Such is the price of progress.