Students at St. Peter School in Kirkwood were stoked for the all-school rally to celebrate the St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup championship. But they didn’t know that a special visitor was stopping by — the Stanley Cup itself.
St. Louis Blues broadcaster Joey Vitale chose St. Peter School as the main stop of his personal two-hour tour with the Stanley Cup on Sept. 25. The St. Louis native and former professional hockey player has three children who attend the school.
St. Peter principal John Freitag fired up the students as they chanted, “Let’s go Blues!” And just a few minutes before 11 a.m., the Keeper of the Cup, decked out with white gloves, carried the Cup into the gymnasium to a resounding roar of shouts and screams.
“It’s been an amazing summer with so many memories, and this just trumps them all,” Vitale said. “Seeing the kids’ excitement and the cheering and the sheer energy … it just gives me goosebumps.”
Since winning the championship on June 12, the Blues anticipate traveling almost 40,000 miles with the Cup through mid-October, said Dave Otto, Stanley Cup scheduler for the St. Louis Blues. Players and coaches each had a day with it in July and August, with the remaining time split among the organization’s operations staff. The Blues will have taken it to five countries (United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Russia), eight Canadian provinces and 14 states, before it’s returned to the National Hockey League and Hockey Hall of Fame on Oct. 15.
“We’re going to hit an awful lot of folks and an awful lot of Blues fans,” he said.
The Blues have the highest concentration of Canadian hockey players of any NHL team, Otto noted, so naturally, “it’s spent a lot of time in Canada. Most of them take it to their hometowns, especially to visit their coaches or their teachers from when they were kids.”
Otto was certain that St. Peter is the first Catholic school in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to have a visit from the Cup. Other stops have included a wedding at the Old Cathedral; the St. Louis Zoo, where Roby the sea lion ate raw squid and sardines from the Cup; Busch Stadium, Anheuser-Busch Brewery and some local bars.
Howie Borrow, one of
several Keepers of the Cup with the Hockey Hall of Fame, said that the 127-year-old trophy, made of 95-percent sterling silver, travels about 160,000 miles throughout the year. He said that several babies have been baptized from the top bowl over the years, but it’s more common to see players and coaches eating and drinking from the Cup. The possibilities there have been endless.
“We’ve seen cereal, ice cream, lobster, caviar, chicken wings, spaghetti. You see a lot of things,” he said. But no worries, good old soap and water is used to clean it between visits.
Second graders who were excitedly waiting in line to have their class photo taken with the Cup rattled off their favorite players — Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, and Alex Pietrangelo to name a few. Second-grader Hank Stevens said that he saw the Cup at the parade in June, but this was his first time to get an up-close glimpse. “It felt like real silver,” he beamed.
St. Peter associate pastor Father Paul Hamilton is a self-described die-hard Blues fan. This was his first opportunity to see the Cup in person. Father Hamilton attended game four of the Stanley Cup finals, which incidentally was the only home game that the Blues won in the final series against the Boston Bruins. “It’s awesome that it’s coming here to St. Peter and I get to see it up close,” he said.
Pastor Msgr. Jack Costello described the Stanley Cup as “an icon.” As he observed students getting their photos taken with the Cup and swarming Blues’ mascot Louie, he added that, “it’s exciting for the kids and for us, and fun to watch their reaction, that’s for sure. I’m glad I don’t have to teach this afternoon.”
Matt Poling, senior director of corporate partnerships for the St. Louis Blues, who has four kids at St. Peter School, worked with Vitale to arrange the school visit. “This is the most emotional that I’ve been at any one of these visits, just to see the kids,” he said. “I think it was a pretty well-kept secret. And I didn’t know Dr. Freitag could run a pep rally quite that well.”