COLUMBIA — St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock entered the Lindenwood Ice Arena in Wentzville to experiment on the Missouri club hockey team.
As a coach, Hitchcock had been sidelined by the NHL lockout, but luckily for the Missouri team, the Blues’ coaches were looking to get back on the ice and offered to work with the team at one of its practices on Oct. 21.
Growing up in St. Charles, Missouri senior captain Alex Roth has been a Blues fan his entire life.
“My dad had season tickets when I was younger so he took me to a lot of games. … Anytime you can have a coach of that caliber — winning a Stanley Cup back with the Dallas Stars and winning coach of the year last year — out at your practice showing you a few things, any pointers he can pass on is greatly appreciated,” Roth said.
Darren Pang, the announcer for the Blues and a former NHL goaltender, has a son, Tyler, who is a senior on the Missouri team.
“So him and I sat down and had a conversation about it," Missouri club coach John Lamond said. "He said that Ken Hitchcock was looking for a few places to practice – those guys (coaches) need to practice just like the players do. So he had asked if we were interested and we made it happen.”
The Blues coaches had a list of drills they were looking to work on. Because they couldn’t use them with their own players, the Missouri team was a convenient option.
Hitchcock wasn’t the only member of the Blues staff to come out to practice. Blues assistant coach Ray Bennett quietly worked with Lamond on how to improve his players' technique. The Blues' video coach, Danny Brooks, wasn’t so laid back.
“Brooks had a lot of fire in him," Roth said. "He got to practice pretty early to go over some things, and he was just anxious to get going. He wanted the drills done right and had a lot of energy out there.
“But they all just love the game, and it’s very noticeable how much they care about this game. It doesn’t matter what level, as long as they’re coaching that’s what they love doing.”
The Missouri team has asked to arrange a charity game with the St. Louis Blues alumni team and pending the severity of the NHL lockout, the club team will try to coordinate another practice with members of the Blues' staff.
How did the experiment go?
“The first part of practice he really got our feet moving and really got the heart rate up,” Roth said. “It was a pretty normal practice besides the fact that NHL coaches were running it.”
The Missouri club team's home opener is set for Nov. 3 against Iowa at the Washington Park Ice Arena in Jefferson City.