On Jan. 3, 1991, the St. Louis Blues beat the Quebec Nordiques in a wild, 8-7 affair that was memorable for three reasons: I was on a date with some guy I had met at a wedding the weekend before; Brett Hull, in the midst of an astonishing 86-goal season, scored the game-winner; and an avalanche of yellow “cool can cup” giveaways, thousands of them on the ice in protest of a late-game penalty.

For some reason, I held onto mine. It’s sat on my desk these past 28 years until pressed into service for the first time for these NHL playoffs.

This time next week, it will all be over. I don’t know what’s going to happen. As of the print deadline, the Blues and Bruins were deadlocked 2-2 in the best-of-seven series. No matter what, nothing will ever erase this glorious spring of 2019.

How many moments during these playoffs have made you cry? From Laila Anderson, the young fan battling a rare immune disorder and her genuine friendship with Colton Parayko, to broadcaster Chris Kerber stepping aside in the second periods of these Stanley Cup finals so John Kelly could get some time in the booth like his dad, legendary broadcaster Dan Kelly.

How many moments have made you burst with pride? The grit and resilience shown by the boys with the Blue Note on their jersey, like the double overtime goal scored by Oakville’s Pat Maroon to beat the Stars. Jordan Binnington’s “Do I look nervous?” Tarasenko, O’Reilly, Schwartz, Schenn, and how can those broadcasters not know it’s Pietrangelo, not “Petra-Angelo.”

“Let’s Go Blues” banners sprinkled all over town; watching road games in the Enterprise Center with 15,000 of your closest friends. Downtown rallies. Neighborhood watch parties. Buying newspapers again. A 1982 disco song, “Gloria,” everywhere you go. Jon Hamm and Jenna Fischer. We All Bleed Blue.

And this: So many stories of loved ones lost whose memory has been seared into our consciousness because they loved the Blues. Because of these playoffs, we have regular conversations with angels late in games as we sit on the edge of our seats, willing a goal. C’mon Larry. C’mon Ed. Just help the boys on ice. Because of these playoffs, grief is replaced by sheer joy. Because of these playoffs, they live again.

If anyone ever wonders why sports are so damned important, it’s because of a time like this.

My date from that hockey game long ago? Within eight months we’d be engaged at the Gateway Arch and married 10 months after that. A life started at a Blues game, and I have a souvenir of those first awkward, beautiful moments. “Enjoy every moment,” I keep telling our now adult sons, “because you just never know when this will happen again.”