Interview: Brendan Armstrong of The Jacks NYB Talks ‘Gloria’ and Blues Hockey
Tonight is the night that countless Blues hockey fans have been waiting most of their lives to witness and experience. It’s the night that boys and girls, who are now grown men/women, fathers/mothers, or grandfathers/grandmothers wished, hoped, and prayed would someday be real. What has seemed like a fantasy to most is about to happen in a few short hours.
Many people have struggled with overwhelming excitement resulting in anxious anticipation for tonight’s final face off between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins as they go into full-on battle for the coveted Stanley Cup. People want to hear “Gloria” (Laura Branigan, 1982, Atlantic Records). Not because they suddenly had a hankering to delve into platinum certified tunes from the 80s, but because that means the Blues are walking away with the Cup.
On January 6, 2019, the St. Louis Blues were dead last in the entire league; not just the Western Conference – all of the NHL. Upon a soon to be recognized as a serendipitous visit by a handful of Blues players to a local Philadelphia social club (NOT A BAR), the Cup-less team of 52 years are now facing the reality of the ultimate honor of winning the Stanley Cup.
Brendan Armstrong, member of The Jacks NYB, was beyond gracious and kind to talk to us on Tuesday afternoon; The eve of (arguably) the biggest day in St. Louis sports history.
Armstrong shared with us the entire story behind how the song “Gloria” came about and evolved into a celebratory anthem for the Blues and all of their fans. In addition to that, he gave us so much more making this every bit a seemingly storybook tale.
He began by explaining that the Blues were in town to face the Philadelphia Flyers the next night. One of the founding members of The Jacks NYB organization was friends with a few of the players from St. Louis and invited them down to the club for an easy night of conversation and maybe a few choice beverages. Armstrong said that our boys took him up on the offer and “came out and had a real good time.”
Toward the end of that fateful night, the social club’s disc jockey was said to be being goofy and played “Gloria” and “the guys loved it”. Armstrong commented that there was really no reason behind it. “It’s just a goofy song.” He went on to say that, “the guys loved it so much, they started listening to it in the locker room after games. From there, it became kind of a lucky charm.”
The song has proven to be equally superstitious and infectious, and let’s just say that the men of The Jacks NYB in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had no idea about how their lives were about to change forever.
The Jacks NYB is a social club that consists of 43 members who are all men. That is not a typo. The Jacks NYB (the place that St. Louis Blues fans have come to adore) is a volunteer organization that only has 43 members.
Brendan Armstrong stated that it started out as just a place for a bunch of friends to just go and hang out. They began participating and competing in the Mummers Parade (google it) and most recently won the championship. St. Louis is not familiar with this event, but Brendan emphasized that it is a huge deal for the people of Philly. They won the title on January 1, 2019. Just 5 days later, the brewing whirlwind and excitement following the honor of the win would prove that something much more vast was about to happen.
Armstrong said that when the Blues visited their establishment, they had so much fun in those few hours and really got to know the friendly gentlemen. From then on, the men of The Jacks were Blues fans. Brendan also noted that upon leaving that bar and taking “Gloria” with them, they went on a rippin’ rampage of wins. All of this on the heels of being called the worst team in the league. Statistically, they were right.
January 2019, the Blues went 7-4-1, with the most games won on the road to date. Was it a coincidence or did some kind of divine intervention have something to do with it? Perhaps they just got a real morale-boosting speech from Coach Berube. Who knows how or why the turn of events took place. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is that the Blues rocketed up the standings, the fans rallied, The Jacks rallied, and here we are – still in shock.
Since The Jacks NYB is a micro-organization, no one receives a paycheck. No one receives more benefits over the other. With that said, since they began rallying behind the Blues, word spread. More and more people began coming around in hopes of being a part of something that is recognized as history in the making.
Before long, the men found their organization hosting hundreds of newfound Blues fans. Although they are elated at the response to what began as a bunch of hard working, middle class guys getting together to drink some beer, they are the ones responsible for responding to the overwhelming demand of Blues fans, both from Philly and across the country.
When they hold watch parties at The Jacks, they cannot rely on beer distributors to ensure prompt and accurate delivery of their product in preparation to serve to patrons on site. They don’t serve food. They don’t have a cleaning crew that they can hire to come in and clean up after a giant crowd celebrates another Blues win. These men scatter in all directions to pull off these glorified parties themselves and they do it while working their laborious full time jobs and trying to be mindful of the time they’re not at home with their wives, girlfriends, and children.
In addition to the watch parties, they have begun selling t-shirts paying homage to the song that is felt to have made an impact on the Blues abrupt 180 degree turn. Armstrong was unsure of the number of shirts that have gone out, but I can’t imagine the time spent on taking orders, securing payment, shipping them out of town, and distributing them to locals. All of this on the back of the giant party that they throw every few days.
Armstrong shares how genuine and grateful they are for all of the support that has been shown to them during this time. He explained that although everything that is happening is very strange (in a good way), he and all of the members of The Jacks NYB organization are truly touched and overwhelmed by the sense of camaraderie that has flourished among the sports community by way of a hockey team from states away.
Taking into consideration that the guys are Philly homegrown, I asked where their loyalty lied within the NHL. Without hesitation, Armstrong emphatically said, “the Blues!”
When asked his prediction for the outcome of tonight’s game, he paused and then confidently stated, “Blues, 4-2.”
Brendan, I think I speak for the rest of St. Louis and everyone at The Jacks NYB, I only hope to see you this Saturday.
Photo credit: Joe English