Blues’ Playoff Run Fueled by Philadelphia-Born 'Play Gloria' Promo T-shirt
South Philly possesses distinction as the home to the most loyal Philadelphia Flyers fans—the NHL team situated in the City of Brotherly Love, Promo Marketing’s home base—but thanks to a local bar’s ties to the St. Louis Blues, the neighborhood finds itself in a Missouri State of Mind. Four months after a quintet of Blues players ventured to the Jacks NYB headquarters for some revelry, “Gloria,” a 1982 pop hit that DJ Matt Cella played often that evening, has become synonymous with the team as it strives to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. And a T-shirt proclaiming “Play Gloria” has furthered the unlikely connection.
“Who could have thought that all of this would have come to be?” asked club co-founder Mike Montecalvo yesterday as his adopted team rolled to a 5-0 road win versus the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. “Those guys have us so pumped, and we’re hoping they’re able to win the whole thing. What a story that would make!”
The hopeful South Philly inhabitant and the other 42 members of the Jacks have proven welcome additions to the Mummers Parade—Philadelphia’s annual New Year’s Day celebration—for the last three years, and claimed the Comic Division Brigade title this year. Having christened “Gloria,” the No. 2 Billboard smash for Laura Branigan, as their victory song, the Jacks made the tune a focal point of their January 6 viewing party of the then-defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles wild card game against the Chicago Bears. That matchup is how the eventual promotional partnership between the Jacks and the Blues came about, and how Montecalvo and his contemporaries have begun to bleed blue instead of Flyers orange-and-black.
“They came here as invited guests,” Montecalvo said of Robert Bortuzzo, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Jaden Schwartz and Alex Steen, whose squad was scheduled to play the Flyers the next night at the Wells Fargo Center. “There was just so much excitement because of the tension involved in that game, especially the field goal at the end, that we wanted to celebrate, and that meant playing ‘Gloria.’”
Wounded warriors upon their arrival to Philadelphia, the Blues, seemingly destined to be bottom dwellers in a stacked Western Conference, quickly took to the song, with a TSN account of that night noting that Bortuzzo said “This is our jam” to Steen. When the visitors blanked the Flyers, 3-0, the next evening behind rookie netminder Jordan Binnington, the Blues had the beginnings of a fairytale that saw them end up with 99 points and that has them one win away from contending for the Stanley Cup.
“They’re a fun team to watch,” Montecalvo said of the Blues from the 11-month-old bar, which, under its former overseers, was the Blue Suede Saloon (you can’t make this stuff up). “As time has unfolded, we’ve followed their journey because it’s a testament to believing in yourself and, just maybe, the power of music to bond a team.”
He and the Jacks learned in February that the Blues had chosen to use “Gloria” as their victory song. So, as the squad not only started to escape the league’s basement but also compelled many observers to consider them legitimate title hopefuls, the song—its late singer’s biggest hit—inspired the Jacks to turn the “Play ‘Gloria’” directive into a T-shirt.
“Before today’s game, sales were totaling about 900, but we’ll probably add at least a couple hundred if they win today,” Cella said after the second period, by which time the Blues had built a 3-0 lead. “If they keep this up, we’re probably going to need to hire an assistant to keep up with everything.”
Inside the Jacks’ haunt, many revelers proudly donned Blues gear, while others sported the “Play Gloria” T-shirts that member Brendan Armstrong secured through a connection with the Pennsylvania-based team outfitters company Kampus Klothes. Featuring the song-centric instruction over the Jacks’ logo, the triblend shirt has gone all around the country and has reached Canada and Australia, too.
Montecalvo beamed when speaking of Laila Anderson, an 11-year-old Missouri resident who is battling an often-fatal inflammatory syndrome and whose immense support of the Blues has included her wearing a “Play Gloria” shirt.
Amazing how our small group of guys from South Philly are touching so many lives. None moreso than Laila Anderson! We Love You Laila! NOW #PlayGloria #LetsGoBlues #TeamLaila #TheJacksNYB pic.twitter.com/7vEz7g1M1Z
— The Jacks NYB (@thejacksnyb) May 18, 2019
“Life is obviously about so much more than hockey, and we’re happy to know of her fight and be of some assistance to her as we join her in rooting for the Blues,” he said.
Montecalvo added that proceeds from sales of the $30 T-shirt will end up split between the Jacks’ operational expenses and scholarship funds that he and his fellow Mummers are overseeing in honor of fallen friends. Having gone through with the unexpected endeavor of trademarking “Play Gloria,” he and the Jacks, who have received promotional print items from the Blues for placement in the bar, hope they are not the only folks who engage in novelty this playoff season. Since the Blues, who host Game 6 at the Enterprise Center tomorrow, have never raised the Stanley Cup, their South Philly fans are rooting for them to close out the Sharks and then triumph over the Boston Bruins in the Finals.
Rooting on the Blues!!!! pic.twitter.com/jMTjC2RwGU
— The Jacks NYB (@thejacksnyb) May 19, 2019
“That would be so amazing for them to get this done,” Montecalvo said in greeting other “Play Gloria” shirt-wearers to the bar. “The summer is where we start to devote ourselves to what we’re going to do for New Year’s, but, right now, we’re thinking about another parade, the one in June that we hope the Blues have.”