Just about every sports team has a handful of dedicated superfans. Fireman Ed, for example, famously led cheers at New York Jets games. Tim McKernan, more commonly known as Barrel Man, went to Mile High Field wearing nothing more than a barrel, a cowboy hat and a pair of suspenders. During last year’s run to the Stanley Cup, Laila Anderson emerged as one of the St. Louis Blues’ biggest supporters.
Anderson was more than your average passionate fan, though, and the team immediately rallied around her. She got a chance to lift the Stanley Cup in June but, with NHL Opening Night approaching, the Blues wanted to pay tribute to her in one lasting way.
The St. Louis Blues historic Stanley Cup run
Last year, the St. Louis Blues slumped right out of the gate. After posting a 7–9–3 record through the first 19 games of the season, head coach Mike Yeo lost his job. His assistant Craig Berube took over, but fortunes didn’t change; at the start of 2019, the Blues had the worst record in the entire NHL. The playoffs, let alone a shot at the Stanley Cup, looked like a pipe dream.
The club then called up rookie goalie Jordan Binnington; even if the season was lost, at least he could get some valuable NHL experience. That move would change the course of history, as the goalie sparked something. The Blues rattled off 11 straight wins and finished the season with a 30–10–5, clinching a playoff berth.
In the postseason, the team just kept rolling. They defeated the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars, and San Jose Sharks on the way to a Western Conference title. After seven grueling games against the Boston Bruins, the Blues had claimed their first Stanley Cup. That championship would mean a great deal to one girl.
Laila Anderson’s personal battle
While the Blues were struggling on the ice, one hockey fan was in the midst of her own battle. 11-year-old Laila Anderson found herself in the hospital battling against a life-threatening immune disorder. As she underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, the Blues started to turn things around.
Anderson watched the team as they both battled through hardships. She had met some of the players at various events and, once she was well enough, they invited her to a game during the Western Conference Finals. From then on, she became a “lucky charm” for the team; players wore “Lai
la Strong” bracelets and looked to her for motivation during the postseason slog.
When the St. Louis Blues finally lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup, Laila was in the building. The team even invited her onto the ice, with players helping her lift the trophy over her head.
One last championship tribute
With the 2019-20 NHL season approaching, the St. Louis Blues had one final piece of business to take care of: championship rings. Beyond the standard commemorative details, they decided to include two special details in the design. Each rings includes an inscription of “Play Gloria,” in reference to the team’s rally song, and “Laila,” in honor of their fan who became a friend.
But that wasn’t all the team did for Anderson. When several players visited her house, they brought an extra piece of jewelry; it was Laila’s.
“You know how much you mean to us, right, and what an inspiration you’ve been to so many people,” Alexander Steen explained before Anderson burst into tears. “I feel I shouldn’t be touching this,” she simply said. Then she gave her ring a big kiss.