Did you happen to see the electronic edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday? The newspaper was obviously in a celebratory mood on the day of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals between its Blues and the Boston Bruins.
Never in the 52 years of their existence had the Blues won the Stanley Cup. They hadn’t even played for the championship since 1970 and hadn’t won a Stanley Cup Final game until Game 2 of this series.
Apparently, happy days were finally here. There on the screen was this: A letter from Blues owner Tom Stillman thanking the fans after reveling in “the elation of breaking through and bringing St. Louis its first-ever Stanley Cup.”
In the newspaper business, there is no greater humiliation than publishing a blatantly incorrect story. It necessitates a retraction. People have to apologize. The public gets a good laugh. The company loses trust and respect in the community. It’s not a good thing.
In the Post-Dispatch’s case, someone unwittingly authorized the posting of Stillman’s letter before Game 6 was even played, thereby putting the newspaper in a risky situation and embarrassing the Blues.
The worst scenario played out. The Bruins got to use the gaffe for motivation during the day on Sunday. And then the desperate team went out and smacked the Blues to tie the series and necessitate the deciding Game 7 on Wednesday in Boston.
The ad pages never made it to print and only those who subscribed to the electronic version of the newspaper could see it. The problem was, many readers did see it and quickly jumped onto social media to point out the mistake.
“Winning the Stanley Cup was a dream come true for so many of you. All of us will remember where we were, what we did and how we felt when the Blues brought the Cup home,” wrote Stillman.
There was even detail about the parade that would follow.
“We are so very proud of our players, our organization and our fans. And now, together, we can finally say ‘We won the Cup for St. Louis,'” Stillman wrote. “We look forward to celebrating with you as we parade the Cup down Market Street.”
The Stillman letter was accompanied by an advertisement from Enterprise Rental Car, the title sponsor of the Blues, which symbolically shook the hand of the organization.
We know what you are thinking. How does something like this happen? Beth O’Malley, the online content coordinator of the Post-Dispatch, tried to explain.
“In preparation for the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final, some of our readers got a sneak peek at what our advertisers are hoping to say to the Blues, the fans and St. Louis,” O’Malley said. “We apologize for the sneak peek and hope to share their messages with everyone very soon!”
The newspaper wanted things in place in case the Blues won the Cup on Sunday. This often happens in the newspaper business. Mock front pages and web pages with championship headlines are customarily designed and prepared to hit the street immediately after a clinching game to take advantage of the moment. If it doesn’t happen, the contents are discarded; no harm, no foul.
The problem was, one of the paper’s on-line editors either wasn’t informed enough to identify the potential problem or just wasn’t paying attention.
The Bruins were already in a feisty mood after losing Game 5 in Boston, complaining that the winning goal in the Blues 2-1 win was scored as the result of a missed penalty call.
There is no way to quantify this, but the possibility certainly exists the team was snapped to attention by the misplaced ads, figuring St. Louis had already considered them finished. The Blues had nothing to do with the mistake, of course. But it likely didn’t matter to the Bruins. It was guilt by association.
And the truth is, the Blues were never were in the game on Sunday. The Bruins steamrolled them, like they had in Game 1 in Boston. Goalie Tuukka Rask made 28 saves in the 5-1 win.
We’ve talked before about the importance of a hot goaltender in the playoffs. And Rask is now sizzling. In fact, in the three games the Bruins faced extinction in these playoffs – Games 6 and 7 against Toronto and Sunday – Rask has a 1.33 goals-against average and has allowed only four goals.
“He just steps up when it matters, and we have all the faith in the world in him, and to see him play the way that he did, it’s really not a surprise to us,” Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. “We just believe in him so much, and we know the kind of person and player he is. He’s our rock.”
Rask became just the fourth goalie in the last 60 years to record a shutout on the road while facing elimination in a Stanley Cup Final. He will be tough to beat in Game 7.
While the Post-Dispatch licks its wound, the Boston Globe is now on the clock. We don’t know who will win Game 7, but you can bet there will be no pregame celebration on its pages and screens before the puck is dropped.