As spring inched closer to summer in St. Louis, people enthusiasticly supported the St. Louis Blues as the hockey team cruised into the Stanley Cup Finals.
A lot of positive developments have occurred:
• Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo is gaining much-deserved respect. Critics complained earlier in the playoffs because he refused to retaliate when pushed around by opposing players. But, his disciplined approach paid off as he’s stayed out of the penalty box. For example, in a 5-0 win vs. San Jose May 19, he gained a power play for his team for not responding when a San Jose player was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Pietrangelo, who married the former Jayne Cox at the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis in 2016, shared the stories from some of the happiest and saddest days of his life in a narrative on The Players’ Tribune last year. He discussed the ways in which hockey has served as a form of emotional escape throughout his life. He wrote about his family losing their unborn son during pregnancy in 2017 and friends and family who have battled cancer, even mentioning prayer and his faith in God. His heartfelt reflection shows how he’s battled in life and why he loves hockey.
• Another inspiring story is of 11-year-old Laila Anderson, a special guest of the Blues at their games vs. San Jose. Laila had been confined to her home and the hospital as she fights a rare disease, HLH, a systemic inflammatory syndrome, but doctors gave her the OK to attend the game. She bonded with defenseman Colton Parayko during a Halloween treat-or-treat event at Children’s Hospital.
• Also, an 11-year-old Blues fan also gained a following as he attended the Game 7 Blues win to close out the series vs. the Dallas Stars. Jayden Linden of Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, was, well, fanatical when he found out he’d be attending the game.
• Forward Ryan O’Reilly is the Blues’ nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to an NHL player who exemplifies leadership on and off the ice and has made significant contributions to the community. Among other things, O’Reilly invited a group of First Nation hockey players and their families to the Blues’ game against the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa. Almost a year earlier, the team was competing in a tournament and faced racism and hurtful comments from opposing players, fans and even referees. O’Reilly brought them to Ottawa, he said, because he wanted to personally tell the kids to “keep enjoying and keep loving playing the game. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.”
• Less publicized was a blog written by Jordan Maas, a Winnipeg Jets season ticket holder who won a trip to see his team play the Blues in the fourth game of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The trip included spending cash, a two-night hotel stay, two tickets to the game and airfare for two.
The Winnipeg fan loved the sights he visited in St. Louis and the people. “Throughout the entire game,” Maas wrote, “the Blues fans were coming up and asking us how we liked the city, and being unbelievable friendly … like almost scary friendly.”
He added that St. Louis is “a beautiful city with awesome” people. His Jets won that game, and he said, “I cannot stress enough, how nice the Blues fans were to us, even after the game, a bunch came over, shook our hands, congratulated us, and said things like ‘anyone but Nashville’ and ‘great game tonight.’”
Earlier this month, speaking to representatives of the Italian Sports Centre, Pope Francis cited sports as a place for respectful encounters. Healthy competition, he said, “always sees the opponent as a friend and a brother.”
Score a virtual high-five from Pope Francis for the fans who met Maas and showed their respect.
Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville.