We’re telling the stories of fans who dare to be different
Most sports fans, we can agree, cheer for the so-called traditional teams — the Leafs, Canadiens and Red Wings, Steelers, Cowboys and Packers, and Lakers, Celtics and, certainly, the Raptors. In baseball, the Blue Jays are big in Canada, but so are the Yankees and Red Sox.
But there are fans out there — granted, not many — who support teams that are perhaps not so popular.
We’re telling their story, about how and why they started cheering for — and remain fans of — the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks (before they became good), Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Kings (see Seattle Seahawks) and Washington Capitals.
It’s not the Bell Island Blues — one of the Caps’ AESHL’s rivals — that O’Keefe is talking about. It’s the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues.
Doug Grant of Corner Brook is the only born-and-bred Newfoundlander to have played for St. Louis — Grant appeared in 31 games St. Louis in the late 1970s — and was part of the Blues organization when O’Keefe’s fascination with the team began.
However, it wasn’t provincial pride that was the main instigator of his passion as a youngster.
“I first saw the Blues play the Maple Leafs on a family trip to Toronto in 1979 and instantly became a fan when I witnessed my first bench-clearing brawl at the old Maple Leaf Gardens,” related O’Keefe.
“Through the year, I have followed Blues players like Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter, Doug Wickenheiser, Brett Hull, Adam Oates (Hull & Oates), Chris Pronger and even Wayne Gretzky (for his brief tenure with St. Louis in 1996).
“As I was a goalie growing up playing minor hockey, I paid particular interest to Mike Liut, Curtis Joseph and most recently (became) a fan of former St. John's Fog Devil Jake Allen whose golf tournament I attended this past summer in Fredericton.
“Ironically, I was coached by Doug Grant while growing up playing minor hockey in Corner Brook.”
O’Keefe is the founder of SOK Associates, specializing in sponsorship marketing, but he once worked for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ parent company, as manager of corporate partner service and activation.
“During my job interview (with MLSE), I was asked if I was a Maple Leafs fan,” said O’Keefe. “Not sure of the answer that they wanted to hear, I nervously explained that I wasn't, BUT that I became a fan of the Blues because they had played the Leafs.
“I got the job and spent a couple of years working with the team.
O’Keefe has seen about 20 Blues games in person.
“I saw my first game in St. Louis as a surprise 40th birthday present,” said O’Keefe. “I try to get to see the team at least once a year live and am looking forward to seeing them again this year when they play in Toronto and Montreal.”