Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Blues Aim Higher

If you were the St. Louis Blues, I'm not sure there's a lot left to accomplish when it comes to on-ice achievements. They're the top-ranked team in the Western Conference when the NHL resumes this season so they're already flying high, and the Blues erased decades of disappointment with a Stanley Cup win that was as good as any. If they can repeat this season, they'll be the first to do so since the Pittsburgh Penguins who are their expansion cousins from 1967. It's a good time to be a St. Louis Blues fan, but what if they could do more? Their announcement today certainly points to doing more, and I think it deserves some special mention because this new effort will open doors for players who might never wear the note on their chests outside of cheering for their favorite team.

I made mention in the chat that I had with Sam Vint, the producer and director of the film The Tournament, that I really needed to learn more about the sledge hockey community. I've been following some of the news stories closer since I met Sam, and I already know how passionate this community is about hockey. What you may not know is that sledge hockey players are even more passionate about getting people of all walks of life onto the ice as a way to remove barriers that may be holding them back. It's with this in mind that the St. Louis Blues today introduced Blues Warrior Hockey!

"Hockey is a sport that teaches and requires many important life skills to play the game including teamwork, acceptance, dedication and leadership among many others, but most importantly it provides an escape from daily routines for those who need it," Steve Chapman, Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer of the St. Louis Blues, stated in a release. "We are proud to partner with these brave men and women who fought for our freedom and ensure there are no barriers for them to play hockey in an inclusive and safe environment. We believe Hockey is for Everyone and will continue to work to provide opportunities for anyone who wants to play."

The Blues Warrior team took to the ice today in its first official practice as 24 players who served in the American military - Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force - got their first taste of being St. Louis Blues players. And if you're thinking this is just 24 military men on the ice, Tracy Cockrum of the US Air Force, is listed as a forward and goalie for the squad, making this Blues team even more inclusive as Cockrum will play for the Blues Warrior team!

As the team prepares for its September 12 game against Kansas City, there will certainly be ups and downs along the way. With the support of the St. Louis Blues, though, I'm hoping this team doesn't have too many financial downs that will affect how often and where they may play. The only way these players will enjoy the game is if they can play regularly and against competition, and that will require an investment of money. Hopefully, the St. Louis Blues NHL franchise will be there to assist the Blues Warrior team whenever they want to play on the road or host a team in St. Louis.

"This team will mean so much for the veteran and hockey communities in St. Louis," Nathan Laupp, the St. Louis Blues Warrior Hockey president and Marine Corps veteran, stated. "We will be able to serve and support disabled veterans through the greatest sport in the world. As a lifelong Blues fan, this partnership means a lot personally and also gives us greater reach and a louder voice to help."

When it comes to the phrase uttered by Steve Chapman above - "Hockey is for Everyone" - this effort by the St. Louis Blues shows that they're going to be a supporter of that phrase by helping disabled veterans find a new hobby they'll enjoy. My hope is that the Blues Warrior program can grow with this new injection of money from the NHL franchise to include kids as well as the St. Louis sledge hockey scene grows stronger. Time will tell as to how this partnership will evolve, but getting the clout of an NHL team behind the sledge hockey community in St. Louis will make a difference.

Kudos to the St. Louis Blues for this effort, and here's hoping the Blues Warrior program becomes the gold-star standard in the US for sledge hockey just as the men and women who make up the Blues Warrior team are gold-star people!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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