ST. LOUIS — Columbia resident Brian Millner remembers getting hockey sticks as a child that belonged to St. Louis Blues alumni Craig Janney and Jeff Brown.

Up in Glasgow, Mark Freese looks back fondly on his days sitting in the last rows of the Checkerdome in St. Louis to see his favorite team as a teenager.

Turner Plackmeyer can’t recall a time he wasn’t rooting for the Blues.

These are just three of central Missouri’s Blues fans who have poured decades of passion into the Gateway City’s hockey franchise.

And on Wednesday night, the Blues can reach the hockey pinnacle and lift their first Stanley Cup with a victory over the Boston Bruins.

“It’s kind of even hard to put it into words," said Plackmeyer, a 34-year-old Columbia resident.

Plackmeyer and Millner were in Enterprise Center at the final horn Sunday as the Bruins beat the Blues 5-1 in St. Louis to force Game 7.

Freese was back in mid-Missouri with his family that crowded around a big-screen TV to watch the game on NBC.

While it was a disappointing Game 6 finish, a win Wednesday in Boston would more than make up for it.

Last November, the 65-year-old Freese witnessed a moment at a Blues game he will never forget.

During a media timeout in the second period of a win over the San Jose Sharks, Freese’s 96-year-old father, Earl, was honored for his military service. Earl served in the Navy during World War II.

Being on the jumbotron was a surprise for Earl. After getting back to his seat, he turned to his son and spoke to him about a moment he’d want to see.

“He kind of said, ‘I hope I’m around to maybe see the Blues win the Stanley Cup,’ because we remember 49 years ago they had a chance,” Mark Freese recounted.

“For my father, especially at 96, to see that, I get goosebumps thinking about it,” Freese told the Tribune. “It would mean a great deal to my father and all of us if they could bring that Cup to St. Louis.”

The Freese family, unrelated to former St. Louis Cardinal David Freese of 2011 World Series fame, started a money pool in Glasgow for which team they thought would lift the Stanley Cup.

Mark and his 34-year-old son, Michael Freese, were two of the three participants to choose the Blues.

Millner, a 33-year-old former Southern Boone assistant boys soccer coach, started his Blues fandom as a St. Louis native.

Millner’s father was his connection to the Blues, as he was a youth hockey coach and had a full-time job with a chemical company that provided cleaning supplies to the then-Kiel Center.

In 2015 at the age of 61, Millner’s father unexpectedly passed away without seeing a Blues championship.

“It’d be pure joy, first and foremost,” Millner said about what would cross his mind should the Blues lift the Stanley Cup. “But then obviously, for me, I think there's a much stronger connection to the Blues than even the Cardinals or any other team that I root for.”

Millner spent time as Truman the Tiger during his undergrad years at Missouri and heavily roots for the school’s athletic teams.

Just like Plackmeyer and Freese, by the time spring rolled around he felt the Blues had a real chance to end their Stanley Cup drought.

That wasn’t always the case as the Blues were at the bottom of the league at the turn of the calendar year.

“At least in late December, early January, I was already looking at who we might pick first overall just because we were dead last,” Plackmeyer said. “I wrote the team off completely, for sure.”

Then, an 11-game win streak from Jan. 23 to Feb. 19 reignited their belief. Plackmeyer even bought his Stanley Cup Final tickets after Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against the Sharks, the now-infamous hand-pass game.

“I’ve kind of had a weird thing this year,” Plackmeyer said.

The Columbia-area fans watched as the Blues fell in the Western Conference finals to the Avalanche and Sharks in 2001 and 2016, respectively. They were rooting in 2000 when St. Louis won the President’s Trophy, given to the team with the most regular-season points, only to fall to San Jose in the first round of the playoffs.

All of that anguish would be trumped Wednesday if Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo were to lift the heaviest trophy in professional sports.

“It would be a pretty insane moment,” Plackmeyer said.

eblum@columbiatribune.com

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