Blues bring Stastny, Butler back to grass roots with surprise visit to Chaminade
ST. LOUIS -- The 800 or so Chaminade Preparatory High School students were asked to convene inside the Skip Viragh Center for what was supposed to be an the kickoff to the new school year Monday morning.
Little did the students know they would be getting some surprise visitors along the way.
A bit of a Blues flavor invaded the scene, with radio voice Chris Kerber first introducing general manager Doug Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock for a little question and answer session to help kick off the Blues' season.
|Paul Stastny is all smiles after donning a Blues|
jersey for the first time Monday morning at an
introduction at Stastny's alma mater, Chaminade
But when the auditorium doors in the back opened, the students were treated to a familiar pair that once graced the halls of yesteryear.
Paul Stastny and Chris Butler made a surprise appearance and took part in the Q&A. They came onto the scene wearing Chaminade hockey jerseys before being presented with Blues third jerseys by Butler's father Doug.
"This is pretty special," said Butler, who signed a one-year, two-way contract and will battle for spot on the top eight spots on defense. "This is where Paul and I first met. I think it was playing summer hockey in junior high school. To come back to kind of where our friendship kind of started, now will be the third time that we've played together. It's neat and special to kind of take a journey that we have and to have a friend that's been there for a good majority of it be there along the way is pretty neat."
The 28-year-old Stastny, who came to the Blues as an unrestricted free agent from the Colorado Avalanche after signing a four-year, $28 million contract, was eight years old when he moved to St. Louis. His father Peter finished his Hall of Fame career with the Blues, playing here for two seasons from 1993-95. Paul's brother Yan, who also attended Chaminade, played for the Blues as well.
Butler, 27, who played previously for the Buffalo Sabres and most recently the Calgary Flames, hails from nearby Kirkwood, Mo. Both he and Stastny were teammates in high school, then in college at the University of Denver. They will be teammates for a third time.
"When you drive down Lindbergh (Blvd.) and pull in here, it just feels like home," said Stastny, who was recently married and attended the tribute charity function along with Peter and Yan in Slovakia for former Blue Pavol Demitra. "For four years, this is where I was constantly and it's just human nature to feel comfortable here.
"I actually came back (to Chaminade) about two weeks ago. We were looking at houses and I actually wanted to show my wife, just to show off the school compared to her high school. It's great memories."
|Chaminade alums Paul Stastny (left) and Chris Butler (right) display the|
high school jerseys Monday morning before the pair were introduced at a
surprise assembly at the high school.
Armstrong, Hitchcock, the elder Butler and both players talked about the influence of youth hockey in St. Louis and the strong presence of a Blues alumni group. Peter and Yan presented a video message for their son and brother, respectively, and Doug Butler talked about coaching his son.
The resounding message was loud and clear for all who attended: dreams can start when one is young. Stastny and Butler were evidence to the entire student body.
"It's neat to be a role model and it's neat to kind of be that first wave of St. Louis kids that have gone on to play pro sports," said Butler, who along with the Stastnys, Ben Bishop and Neil Komadoski represent Chaminade alum to play in the NHL. "I remember watching (Golden State Warriors forward) David Lee knowing that he was something special when I was in junior high and now look at where he is today is pretty cool."
For Stastny, the mantra "There's No Place Like Home" fits the bill to a tee. It would have been tough for him to leave Colorado for anyplace else.
"In the end, you just want to win," said Stastny, who has 160 goals and 458 points in 538 career games spanning eight seasons. "You want to be comfortable in an area that you know away from hockey. What better area than going back home? For me, it's about winning and I look at this team, how good they are and how deep they are. I know in the last couple years, they've been that close. They could have beaten Chicago, Chicago could have easily beaten L.A. and been the Cup champions (this past season). They had good battles with L.A. when L.A. won (in 2012 and '13). It's so hard to win. That's what you're really looking at, is looking at the best chance to win with a good group of guys and I think that's what we have here."