Break the bubble, enter the ice

Welcome back, everyone; we hope you enjoyed your breaks and are settling in to your new semester nicely. But as much as the spring semester is a new start, even freshmen have been on campus for four months now, and our guess is that a majority of you 2016ers are still somewhat trapped inside the Wash. U. bubble. Fair enough—most of us were similarly trapped in our first spring semesters as well. But as your first year here progresses, it’s healthy to get out into this great city we live in and enjoy some of what it has to offer. And we have a fun and affordable suggestion for you that involves going beyond Kayak’s or the Loop (which, if you needed a reminder, is not “breaking the bubble”). More importantly, cheering for a sports team, whether or not you’re obsessed with hockey, provides a connection to the community at large.

As you hopefully know, one of the best parts of any sane Wash. U. student’s winter break involves catching up on the sleep he or she didn’t get for the previous four months. Therefore, most of us were probably asleep around 4 a.m. on Jan. 6, when the National Hockey League’s absurd and unnecessary 113-day lockout ended. The league will begin a 48-game season this Saturday, to the delight of its millions of rabid fans in North America.

Now, this may be news to some people, but there are sports teams in St. Louis not named the Cardinals. And we’re not just talking about the ones here on campus that you may or may not know exist. Or the Rams, who have spent most of the past decade doing some soul-searching. No, we’re talking about the one that was the second-best team in its league last season: the St. Louis Blues.

If you missed it, here’s a quick recap of the Blues’ 2011-12 season. New coach Ken Hitchcock arrived in November, and he coached the team to the league’s second-best record and won the Coach of the Year award. Their goalies, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, allowed the fewest goals of any goalie combination in the league, by far. Alex Pietrangelo emerged as arguably a top-5 defenseman in the NHL while being the same age as an average member of the Washington University class of 2012. A slew of young forwards—led by captain David Backes, T.J. Oshie, David Perron and Patrik Berglund—helped the Blues light the lamp on a nightly basis. All of this powered the team to the second round of the playoffs before its season ended at the hands of the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings.

And here’s the best part for all of us in St. Louis: despite the Blues being a top NHL team with an unquestionably bright future, going to a game is pretty easy. Last season, they had the seventh-lowest average ticket price in the NHL, according to ESPN. Blues ticket prices on StubHub, the Internet’s primary ticket marketplace, are much lower than in other U.S. cities with successful teams such as Chicago, Pittsburgh and Boston, to name a few. And their home, the Scottrade Center, is a three-minute walk from the Civic Center stop on the MetroLink.

But if that’s not enough for you, the Blues have seven designated student nights this season, when college students all across the St. Louis area can get tickets starting for around $20 and lower-bowl tickets beginning at about $38. That’s a price that the average hockey fan would be ecstatic over for any game, and one of the best teams in the NHL is offering it to you solely based on your status as a student in St. Louis.

If you’ve ever been to a hockey game, you know how great it is. Big hits along the boards. The arena exploding after a goal. The excitement of a good fight. But odds are you’ve never been to a hockey game before. To which we say: if you’re looking for a way to break out of the Wash. U. bubble and enjoy an evening with some friends at a reasonable price, a Blues game is easily one of the best and most underrated options. Buy some student tickets. Get that U-Pass that’s been gathering dust in the back of your wallet and take the MetroLink to the Civic Center stop. But nothing ties you to your home for the next three years quite like shouting, ooooh-ing and doing the power-play dance with 18,000 of its residents. Give it a try.

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