Jared Lankford: Following the Blues’ example

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

History was made Wednesday evening when the St. Louis Blues ended the nation’s longest hockey championship drought when they captured the Stanley Cup for the first time in the team’s 52-year existence.

Admittedly, I was one of millions of bandwagon fans that hitched up my wagon and rode the Blues coattails all the way to the championship.

Lankford

Hockey is an outlier sport for most of us.

Naturally, most southwest Missouri residences aren’t rabid fan bases, simply because the sport isn’t played much around here.

Growing up, I was only able to see hockey games when the playoffs were on or the winter Olympics were played.

Still, I would be fixated and watch on those precious few occasions, always thinking about how hard I would fall trying to skate that fast.

With the Blues winning Game 7 over Boston, 4-1, a storyline that had been repeated hundreds of times this playoffs season was completed — from last to first.

On Jan. 3, the Blues brought in a new goaltender in Jordan Binnington and moved from last place all the way to Stanley Cup champions.

The way the entire season unfolded was almost something out of a Hollywood script — almost Mighty Duck-ish.

The idea of last to first in the same season may seem like fiction, but no longer.

There is a lesson in all of this for athletes and coaches — never give up.

As the Blues players were interviewed after the title win, they all said the key to the season’s turnaround was believing in each other and continuing to work hard.

High school coaches preach these principles every day to their athletes. They use phrases like “buy in” or “believe” and “do your job.”

It would be easy for fans or media to chalk this up to just coach speak or hyperbole, but the Blues are the example that needs to be shown to all prep athletes.

There have been a few occurrences in our area where one could argue this model was displayed.

When Monett won its state softball championship, the Lady Cubs were not the most flashy team.

What they had were starters and role players that knew their roles and did their jobs. They had bought into the system that Coach Ty Goetz had taught.

Jeremy Dresslaer implemented his style and motivated his Purdy club to a Final Four on the basketball court.

What David Large accomplished with his two state titles proved that when kids buy into a smashmouth system the results are undeniable.

In every win and loss, St. Louis stressed the team aspect and the need to pick each other up.

Center for the Blues Ryan O’Reilly said in his postgame interview that the team never got down on themselves after Jan. 3. If they had a bad game, they rebounded and didn’t let the past dictate the future.

What made that statement stand out even more was that St. Louis had a well-documented fight at an early December 2018 practice where fisticuffs were thrown between Robert Bortuzzo and Zach Sanford.

Blues interim coach Craig Berube told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in a December 11 article:

“That happens. Guys are frustrated and they should be.

So, sometimes in practice it boils over and things happen, but it’s fine. I know these guys care. When things like that [happen, it’s] because they do care. They want to be successful, they want to win.”

Berube did a masterful job turning the season around, challenging every player on the team.

The Blues championship effort was a team accomplishment.

Hopefully it will be studied, modeled, implemented and lead others to the pinnacle of success.

Or at a minimum, make a team truly the best it can be.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He may be reached at sports@cassville-democrat.com or by calling 417-847-2610.

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