When Carol Salomon and her children made the trip from Durango to St. Louis and finally stepped inside the sold-out Enterprise Center for Monday’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the hometown Blues, the first thing she noticed was how vastly different the stadium’s atmosphere felt compared to the last time the Blues had made that deep of a run in the playoffs.
Salomon, 80, was able to see the team’s first-ever Stanley Cup home win and has deep ties to the franchise despite following from afar, and has been associated with the team since the start.
Her former father-in-law, Sid Salomon Jr., and first husband, Sid Salomon III, were the team’s original owners from 1966-1977. The Blues, one of hockey’s most storied – and tormented – franchises, are on the brink of doing something that Salomon has never seen: Winning the Stanley Cup.
The Blues lead the Stanley Cup Finals 3-2 over the Boston Bruins, and with her team being just 60 minutes away from lifting the sport’s biggest prize, Salomon’s memories from the earliest days of the franchise have come back with resounding sharpness.
“The fans are still the fans, they’re just as excited as ever, especially on the streets of St. Louis,” Salomon said.”The intimacy of the Arena was really, really special. It had a real rumble and character to it. Today, as sports have changed, you have the TV trucks, the video boards, and the technicality of it all is so different from back when it first started. Even still, it’s a super-rich heritage that I was proud to be involved in and couldn’t be happier to see the franchise get this far.”
She came to know the ins and outs of the franchise, and while she did not grow up with the sport, being raised in Miami, she soon became inundated. She was part of the brainstorming session that chose the iconic logo, “The Blue Note,” and the original goal song, “When the Blues Go Marching In.”
From hosting birthday parties at the St. Louis Arena, to waking up and driving her sons to various rinks at 6 in the morning, hockey became a part of Salomon. She went so far as helping her husband make drives up to Canada to watch potential prospects, including Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante, Al Arbour and many other Blues greats.
“My husband had a nose for off-beat trades and working with the scouts and he was good, and he was controversial, but in that kind of business, one is,” Salomon said.
She added that while she grew to love the sport, she also fondly remembered the little moments.
“During that time, you never got too far away from it,” she said. “We would have the team come down to Florida after the season, and I became close friends with a lot of the players’ wives. I’d have the wives over frequently, and one night, Garry Unger’s wife, her water broke on my daughter’s bed and I drove her to the hospital.”
After the family suffered financial difficulties, they sold the franchise to Ralston Purina in 1977. Salomon, who played a key role in the early days of the franchise, from staying late while her husband and coaches broke down the footage from the night’s game, to being a support line for players and their wives, in addition to being a mother of three, was ready to move in a new direction out of the Gateway City.
A new chapterSalomon would later divorce Sid, and he died of cancer at the age of 51 in 1988, but she has stayed in touch with the team. She has been a resident of Durango for 25 years, happily married to her second husband, Norman Broad.
When searching for a new home, Broad and Salomon drove the country in search of a new life and a new chapter. She was ready for anonymity.
“We were both retiring, and we took three 8,000-mile car trips looking around for a place to retire, and we were in Santa Fe, and somebody told us to drive out to Durango, and we loved it here,” Salomon said. “We are always fortunate to travel but are equally always happy to come back.”
Stepping away from the spotlight helped her remain appreciative of the game, but from a distance.
“I think, in those days, our family was very much in the limelight, being associated with the Blues, but it was just how it worked with who you are and what you do,” Salomon said. “Until that time, nobody knew that I was even associated with the team. It’s not a deal-breaker to be associated with them, and I only reflect on how proud I am that my former husband’s father could make this all possible, and how well the team has done.”
Since moving to Durango, she has followed the standings, and after a tough period in which the Blues struggled throughout much of the 2000s, the recent revitalization has been gratifying. She added that the new ownership group has helped bring back the pride that was there at the start.
“The owners have been fantastic, and really put a lot of hard work and effort to get to this point,” Salomon said. “I feel, when they invited me back a few years ago, it was very special. It all coalesced to make it a very spirited family thing. They treat the players wonderfully and I feel that legacy is from my family.”
Game 6 awaitsWhen Game 6 rolls around Sunday night, Salomon will be glued to the game, not from the raucous Enterprise Center but from a living room in an otherwise quiet Durango neighborhood. She’ll be the loudest Blues fan in town, yelling instructions, telling players to take a shot, and creating her own family atmosphere, – something equally as priceless, as she’ll watch alongside Norman and with her three children, Sid IV, Tim and Patti.
She hasn’t allowed herself to dream of what seeing the franchise that she helped grow raise the Cup, but she’s hopeful the Blues will be playing Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” at the end of the night.
“I’m going to be on pins and needles until this is over, and I think about it all of the time,” Salomon said. “Just how grateful I am to have this richness in my life, and to have it rekindled now is so fun.
“It’s very exciting for me, and while I’d love to fly back for Sunday’s game, I’ll be right by the TV set and will be rooting very hard. Hockey has a great heritage, and I’m so thankful that I get to play a tiny part in it.”