When 72-year-old Ronald H. Schmidt of Mehlville
died in his sleep early Tuesday morning, the St. Louis Blues
lost not just a fan. They lost a fan who attended the franchise's first home game in 1967 and who came to know announcers, journalists and Hall-of-Famers alike simply by showing up, almost without fail, for 43 straight seasons.
Inside the old Arena
, you could've found "Mr. Hockey" up in seat 14 or 15 of section 227A, where he learned all his fellow season-ticket holders' first names. He liked sitting up high so he could watch the plays develop, says his son John, who's now 45 and lives in Arizona but accompanied his dad to games as a boy.
Schmidt always got a slice of pizza and a Pepsi and rarely spoke
during the action. "He didn't holler too often," John recalls, "but
when he did, he had a voice that carried a long way." One of Schmidt's
repeated sources of frustration was referee Ron Wicks
. "I'm sure Wicks heard it."
John says his dad was chummy with announcer Gus Kyle
, and in later years, Bruce Affleck
. He counted players Bob Plager
and Garry Unger
among his friends. John even remembers hockey legends Bobby Orr
, Glenn Hall
and Stan Mikita
popping up in section 227A when they were in town, just to say hello to his father.
Sportscasters Bill Davis
(then of Channel 4) and Ron Jacober
(formerly of Channel 5) sought out Schmidt for sound bites. "A lot
of those reporter guys all sat real close by our section," John
remembers. "I guess after a period of time, they noticed [Dad] was
there all the time."
Schmidt always got a ride or carpooled to
the games, John says, because he refused to get behind the wheel of any
vehicle for most of his adult life. (A car struck him and fractured his skull when he was a young man, which John believes permanently spooked him).
A graduate of University City High School
and Washington University
, Schmidt served in the Navy during the Berlin Airlift
, married Lois Mae Watson in 1963, then worked as cartographer for the Department of Defense
until about 2000, helping create maps of the moon for the Apollo space program
, then decades later, maps used for Operation Desert Storm
. When he worked late shifts at the office, he would listen to Blues games on the radio.
Parkinson's disease took its toll on Schmidt in recent years, he began
leaving games after a period or two, John recalls. "That really upset
him," he says.
Schmidt's widow Lois says she's asked their
season-ticket representative to see about placing some kind of plaque
on their seats in the Scottrade Center
to memorialize her late husband.
"Nobody's gonna be in the seats tonight," she says.
Only 115 season-ticket accounts have been active since 1967, according to a Blues spokesperson.
always said he really wanted to do two things before he died: retire
while he was still standing up and watch the Blues win a Stanley Cup,"
John Schmidt says. "He got to do one of 'em."
According to the Post-Dispatch obit
, visitation is today at Kutis South County Chapel, 5255 Lemay Ferry Rd. (at Butler Hill) from 3 to 8 p.m.
They called him "Mr. Hockey."