The Boston Red Sox have “Sweet Caroline,” the Chicago Blackhawks have “Chelsea Dagger” and the old Hartford Whalers had “Brass Bonanza.”
The St. Louis Blues?
They have “Gloria,” the 1982 hit song for Laura Branigan that has improbably become the celebration song for a team that won 29 of 43 games to go from last in the NHL to the playoffs and all the way to the Western Conference final against San Jose.
If that seems odd, consider this: “Gloria” became a St. Louis craze in part because of a bar in South Philadelphia: Jacks NYB, a private club in the middle of Flyers country, is where five Blues players happened to watch the Eagles-Bears playoff game Jan. 6 and, well, things happened.
When the players arrived at the hole-in-the-wall with a locked front door, they were greeted with “Let’s go Flyers!” chants and some ribbing, but quickly assimilated with the crowd, cheesesteaks in hand. A club member kept yelling, “Play ‘Gloria!'” and DJ Matt Cella obliged by putting on Branigan’s catchy pop hit every commercial break.
“They just went nuts when they heard it, and we loved watching it,” Blues forward Robby Fabbri said. “So we just happened to get a win the next day and made it our win song.”
The Blues already had a song — “Runaround Sue” — but rookie Jordan Binnington’s shutout of the Flyers the next day in his first NHL start coincided with the team’s turnaround. Hockey players are particularly superstitious, so “Gloria” has become something of a sensation.
“They weren’t looking for a song that night,” Jacks NYB member Jerry Foschini said. “This is one of them things that never in a million years could be planned. It’s serendipity.”
Long before Fabbri and teammates Robert Bortuzzo, Alexander Steen, Joel Edmundson and Jaden Schwartz heard “Gloria” (over and over again) that night after an invite from friend Larry Yadan, members of the Jacks club made it their song as they prepared to march in and compete in the city’s annual Mummers Parade. When the Jacks won first place in their division, they played the song all over the neighborhood to celebrate.
“If we don’t win first place, we’re probably not having an Eagles party like that five days later and ‘Gloria’ would have probably died because it got on our nerves so much from the summertime,” club co-founder Mike Montecalvo said.
It’s been fun for Jacks, too, some 900 miles from St. Louis. An orange and black Flyers pennant hangs on the wall at Jacks but is dwarfed by the blue and gold regalia of the Blues. Even the Philadelphia 76ers’ NBA playoff run took a back seat to the members’ new favorite team trying to win its first Stanley Cup championship.
“It’s like I was at a sports bar in St. Louis,” said Brian Lamping, a St. Louis attorney who was in Philadelphia on business and watched a playoff game at Jacks. “It was surreal.”
Fans travel from places like St. Louis and Washington just to watch Blues playoff games at Jacks, a relatively new private bar with 43 members who all live within a mile of their hangout spot. Brendan Brassil, a St. Louis native who lives in Philly, found out about the place from the Blues’ Instagram account and made a pilgrimage to watch Game 1 of the West final against the Sharks. The place, of course, went wild when Bortuzzo scored the game-winner Monday night to even the series with San Jose at one apiece.
Jacks members say they have trademarked “Play Gloria” and they have sold over 700 shirts bearing the phrase. One was sent to actor and famous Blues fan Jon Hamm, and the demand is off the charts.
“Gloria,” went to No. 2 on the charts 37 years ago and reached No. 44 on the iTunes chart last week after St. Louis native Pat Maroon scored in double overtime of Game 7 against Dallas in the second round. That helped make a Blues fan out of Kathy Golik, a longtime fan of Branigan who manages the late artist’s social media accounts and a website.
“I liken it to a small snowball that’s rolled down a hill and all of a sudden it becomes this big, gigantic thing,” Golik said. “What I think the beauty of it is has been this was a very organic thing. This wasn’t the result of a Blues marketing campaign or something like that. This is just something that was this little story that has become a big story now out of this Philadelphia bar involving the players.”
Golik hasn’t yet been to Jacks but talked to Montecalvo last week to hear the “Play Gloria” story. She beamed with pride when the song was played over the speakers in St. Louis after the Game 7 over the Stars win and was thrilled when a local radio station played it for 24 consecutive hours to celebrate the series victory.
Fabbri, who on that January night was the first player to drink out of the Jacks’ fantasy football trophy in what has become a tradition since, said some teammates didn’t get the allure of “Gloria” at first. But the Blues kept winning and everyone bought in.
“The song alone is a fun song, and when you have a good feeling coming in after a win it’s a good song to hear,” Fabbri said.
Inside the club where it all started, “Gloria” is now played after each Blues goal and followed by celebratory shots of liquor. Asked if he’d consider playing “Gloria” on a continuous loop, Montecalvo joked, “We pretty much do already.”
Players and members are too superstitious and don’t want to get ahead of themselves, but inside the club that’s decked out in everything Blues, Foschini said St. Louis winning the Cup would be equivalent to the Eagles winning the Super Bowl.
“If the Blues get this thing done and they win the Stanley Cup, you better believe I’ll be working with them to get that Stanley Cup back to Jacks club,” Yadan said.
If that happens, they may never stop playing “Gloria.”