We're not big geography buffs here at The Loop, but even we know that St. Louis is in Missouri, and not, in fact, anywhere near West Virginia. Alright, well, maybe it's only a couple states over, but that's still not close enough to explain why St. Louis Blues fans have been BELTING out "Take Me Home, Country Roads," a song by John Denver about West Virginia, during the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On Tuesday night, the Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks in five games in the Western Conference Finals, advancing to the franchise's first Stanley Cup Final since 1970. While the Sharks were able to cut the lead to 2-1 at one point, the Blues pulled away late, winning 5-1 and turning the atmosphere at the Enterprise Center into a party.
During that party, Blues fans could be heard singing "Country Roads," an all-time classic singalong song, in unison. The tune is always great whether you're in or out of West Virginia, from or not from West Virginia, or if you're on Mars. Everybody knows the words, and if you don't all you have to know is the chorus to fit in. The Blues fans' rendition was an A+++ one on Tuesday:
Here was an excellent version from Game 3 captured by NBC:
"Country Roads," is always great, especially after a Mountaineers victory Milan Puskar Stadium (which I'd know nothing about since they lost to TCU on a last second field goal the game I went to in 2014. Still salty). No matter how good it is, though, it still doesn't explain why the Blues fans are singing it, because it's not some longtime tradition in St. Louis.
Apparently it has been going on since spring, and it sort of happened by accident. In an article on wvusports.com, writer John Antonik explains how it happened:
That's right, the state anthem for West Virginia has turned into the unlikely team anthem for the St. Louis Blues as they continue their march toward this year's Stanley Cup.
And get this: the guy responsible for the song taking off like wildfire in The Gateway City is none other than a Pitt guy! His name is Jason Pippi, University of Pittsburgh class of 2008 and St. Louis Blues game operations director. He was also in the Panther marching band and, cover your nose, he was a Panther mascot! Not only was he the mascot, but he was THE mascot during the 13-9 disaster in 2007 that cost West Virginia its best chance at a football national championship!
Antonik goes on to explain that Pippi first tried "Sweet Caroline" on the Blues fans during one game, but it didn't quite stick. "Country Roads," however, did, much to Pippi's chagrin. For those unaware, Pippi's alma mater, Pittsburgh, is perhaps West Virginia's fiercest rival, the two teams first meeting in football in 1895 and in basketball in 1906 and then playing each other well over 100 times in each sport since. Unfortunately, the "Backyard Brawl" rarely happens in football anymore (last meeting was 2011) because of West Virginia's move to the Big 12. But make no mistake, both schools still despise each other.
So Pippi must have been sick to his stomach when the song stuck with the Blues fans, and it has since taken on a life of its own. "It's one of those fan-driven, organic things," Pippi said. "I've been with a few teams that would love to get their crowd to do things like this and the fact that our fans are so into the game and so into the team, they want to be a part of this."
Frankly, when you make the Stanley Cup for the first time in almost 50 years, you can sing whatever the hell you want. But now we know the reason behind the Blues fans' newest tradition.