ST. LOUIS — Aaron Stock has been a Blues fan for as long as he can remember.
Like any superfan, the Wentzville resident was there for the 2019 Stanley Cup victory night at the Enterprise Center, hoisting a model Stanley Cup and celebrating with his girlfriend. He wanted to keep pieces of that history alive, so over the next two years he spent thousands of dollars on goalie pads, gloves and sticks at various Blues events.
But the excitement faded when the goods arrived.
Style, wear or markings on many items did not match photos from the games, he claims in a recent St. Louis lawsuit. Stock thought there must be a problem, so he brought it to the attention of the team. He even made suggestions on how they could prevent it.
The Blues told him they would investigate and Stock hoped they would sort it out. But more than two years later, he said he was still waiting.
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“I just wanted them to do the right thing,” he said.
In all, Stock spent more than $30,000 on Blues memorabilia, according to the suit.
The Blues declined to comment for this story, citing the lawsuit. But on their website, the team outlines a process for authenticating last season’s merchandise, including a hologram on every item used in-game and certificates of authenticity for other gear.
Stock, 34, has been a die-hard Blues fan since he was young, going to games with his dad at St. Louis Arena. The atmosphere at “The Barn” was electric, he said. He was hooked.
As he got older, he bought subscriptions. He was there for most playoff games in 2019. He and his girlfriend went to autograph signings and events, and they even went to the Anheuser-Busch brewery for the release of a special Gloria edition. Brew.
“It was like a magical season,” he said.
In October 2019, Stock tried to capture some of that magic by buying memorabilia, including a set of pads worn by goaltender Jordan Binnington for $1,695 at an online auction.
But when he compared his new purchase to photos taken of Binnington at every game, Stock came to a disturbing realization: the pads were used in the 2019-20 season, not the year of the Cup victory Stanley on the description, indicates the lawsuit.
It sparked a chain of discoveries – problems with a Jake Allen goalkeeper’s glove and sticks allegedly used in Binnington and Vladimir Tarasenko’s games. He noticed that other people had also purchased mislabeled items at auctions.
Stock sent a letter to Blues General Counsel Michael Lowenbaum in May 2020 outlining the issue. He even suggested a solution: the Blues could adopt a process like Major League Baseball to authenticate items. He called it the gold standard, adopted after an FBI investigation in the late 1990s revealed widespread memorabilia fraud in sports.
In July 2020, Stock met with Lowenbum, who admitted authentication and labeling issues, according to the lawsuit.
“I basically said to him, ‘You could fix it very easily,'” Stock said.
Still, no one from the Blues has offered to reimburse Stock or follow through on a suggestion to get player autographs on the items, the suit says.
Stock kept trying the auctions and kept finding issues. He sent another letter to the front office and officials assured him that the team was implementing a new authentication system, the lawsuit says.
In early 2021, the Blues told Stock to stop buying team memorabilia and refused to refund most of his items, according to the suit.
Then came the final straw.
In the spring, Stock purchased three “game worn” gloves that turned out to have a clear “training” label on a tag near the wrist and different stitching than gloves used in games.
He also purchased a Carl Gunnarsson helmet that was allegedly used in a game, but lacked the required logos. There were also no signs of wear inside.
Stock filed a lawsuit, accusing the team and its ownership group of violating Missouri law, including fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation.
The Blues “knew, or should have known, that their merchandise was not what they claimed they were,” the suit said. “…Because of the defendants’ conduct, plaintiff and countless other Blues fans have been harmed.”
Stock also fears the problem is broader than St. Louis. If his favorite team authenticates things that turn out to be wrong, others could have the same problems, he said.
“I don’t know if the NHL should do anything about it,” he said, “but it’s definitely a problem.”
Still, Stock said he wouldn’t stop watching hockey. His Blues fandom is part of the reason he took legal action, he said — he wanted to make sure they were doing okay with fans like him.
“Players like to win,” he said. “But for the fans, sometimes the closest to the game is with the equipment they had.”