The first Blues player to lift the Stanley Cup encountered a significant problem at 12:18 p.m. on Saturday.
Alex Pietrangelo was supposed to figure out how to lug his 34.5 pound Cup to the top of the Clydesdale-led Budweiser wagon waiting for him at Enterprise Center.
And if that wasn’t hard enough, the captain had other precious cargo to consider.
His wife, mom, dad, mother-in-law and infant triplets were supposed to ride with the defenseman in the Blues’ Stanley Cup championship parade.
The Clydesdales were a curveball. The parade was starting. Like, now.
“First I can remember,” Keeper of the Cup Philip Pritchard said when asked if the trophy had been pulled by horses. “But, in hockey, there is always a way.”
And in St. Louis, there is a captain who leads the way.
Pietrangelo pivoted with precision, assigning his wife to the Budweiser wagon and steering everyone else toward the golf cart that would follow behind.
Once settled in above the crowd with his bride and his prize, he realized an important task remained.
He lifted the Cup into the air, drawing one of the loudest roars heard downtown on this day.
“I need a beer,” he said.
I want to tell you all this, because I know some wanted to be here and could not, and some who came could not see it very well, and even those who came and saw caught just a glimpse.
There were so many magical moments.
So, come along with your captain on his 1.5 mile-long memory with a city that waited nearly 52 years.
You all were relentless, just like your Blues.
You popped champagne in alleys. You turned the tops of portable bathrooms into couches. You climbed light poles and peered down from parking garages. You drank and sang and chanted and cheered and, after you grazed the Cup, you cried.
Pietrangelo heard your applause. He saw you pulling that ‘C’ on your sweater — his sweater — a sign that you understand his role on this worst-to-first team. He hopped off the wagon and brought the Cup to you, letting you push against the partitions until they were about to pop. Upon request, he poured a beer atop a bald man’s head. He hugged those who were celebrating birthdays, whether they were turning 54, or nine. He waved a flag that said “History Made” from the back of a fire truck. And every single time you called for it, even after his legs were burning and his biceps were barking, he lifted the Cup.
“I didn’t think I was going to work out for a few weeks,” he said. “I guess I’m right back at it. Pretty amazing, though.”
He raced ahead, handing the Cup to Alexander Steen, Ryan O’Reilly, Pat Maroon.
“I’ll never see it again,” Pietrangelo said once Big Rig took hold, and it was hard to tell if he was serious.
Before he handed it to Vladimir Tarasenko, No. 91 put his hands on Pietrangelo’s face and said, “We did it!”
When Vince Dunn started sprinting up and down the street with the Cup, Pietrangelo looked at him like a concerned parent.
He’s a father, first and foremost.
Every 10 minutes or so, Pietrangelo dropped back to the cart to check on his babies and their grandparents.
If the Cup was up ahead, he had an arm wrapped around his wife, Jayne, or held one of their three tots: Evelyn, Oliver, and Theodore.
These were powerful images even if you don’t know the backstory of the challenging pregnancy issues the Pietrangelos experienced in the past, a story they were brave enough to share with the world.
“This is what it’s all about right here,” he said, nodding to his kids.
His parents beamed.
“Happy tears,” said Edi Pietrangelo, the mother of the captain. “Very proud.”
It was around 1:30 p.m. when Jayne dodged a beer shower her husband welcomed with open arms.
It was 2 p.m. when she figured, forget it, and started spraying champagne, soaking everyone, including herself.
Did you know she was a Blues fan long before her husband led the Blues?
“I’ve seen him accomplish so much,” Jayne said. “He’s such a hard worker. It’s so well-deserved for him and the entire team. They jelled together, found the chemistry. After all of these years, they brought the Cup to St. Louis, to my hometown. It means the world to all of us.”
Every time the captain saw an officer in uniform, he stopped to shake hands.
And if the Cup was in his possession, Pietrangelo made sure they touched it and took a picture with it.
“Don’t quote me,” one of the officers said. “But that was awesome.”
The Budweiser dalmatian is named April. April fell in love with Alex.
When he climbed down from the wagon, April watched him like her owner had just left for work.
When he made his way back, her tail wagged a mile a minute.
“I want the dog,” he joked.
He patted her on the head.
Her tail hit overdrive.
I tried (and failed) to count the times the Cup was hoisted and the bottle count of beers consumed. Both were impressive. But the only number that stuck with me after it was over was three.
Three times on Saturday, Pietrangelo made a miracle.
First came 20-year-old Harrison Schmidt. He had tried to play hockey in the Special Olympics last season, but skating was hard for him. Still, he loves Pietrangelo so much he came to the parade wearing the captain’s jersey backward, as if he wanted to be able to look down and see the name. Pietrangelo saw Harrison and came over to ask a question. “Want to walk with me?” Harrison’s family could not believe it, but there went Harrison, through the gate and up Market Street, with Pietrangelo, to lift the Cup.
The second was Bobby Reidelberger. Pietrangelo invited him onto the route from the crowd and pushed his wheelchair toward 8th and Market, where Maroon was displaying Stanley. Reidelberger touched it and began to weep. Pietrangelo hugged him, then handed him a Busch Light.
The third was David Mellitz. He has Spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. Pietrangelo didn’t know this part, but the reason Mellitz became a Blues fan in the first place was because the team visited him in the children’s hospital in the late 70’s. They left him a poster. Pietrangelo helped him lift the Cup.
He stayed out there so long they nearly lost him.
Two police officers had to rush the captain through a closing pack of humanity to get him to the stage for the ceremony beneath the Arch.
Fans who were getting bumped were getting mad — until they realized that was Pietrangelo being rushed past.
“I just shook Pietrangelo’s hand!” a woman yelled.
“You are the champion of the world, baby!” hollered a man.
“Legend forever,” shouted someone in the chaos.
Pietrangelo downplayed his impact. He always does.
“Just doing my part,” he said.
If you watched it, you knew better.