When he left the White House with the rest of the Blues on Oct. 15, following a Rose Garden ceremony honoring the Stanley Cup championship, Craig Berube thought the hoopla had ended.
Wrong. There was another round of celebration Thursday when the Blues coach was named the St. Louis Sports Personality of the Year at the 50th Jack Buck Awards at the Missouri Athletic Club.
Among the other award winners were Blues icon Bobby Plager (Legends Award), WNBA rookie of the year Napheesa Collier (Hometown Hero Award), Cardinals president John Mozeliak (Musial Award), and the #MLS4TheLou soccer ownership group (Jack Buck Award).
But the star of the night was Berube, who coached the Blues to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and joined the ranks of Yadier Molina, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Albert Pujols, Whitey Herzog, Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Hale Irwin and others among the MAC’s sports personalities of the year.
While thanking general manager Doug Armstrong, who presented him, and Blues chairman Tom Stillman, who was in attendance, Berube gave credit where due — to the players.
“You win because of players,” he said. “Our players bought into the team-first mindset and work ethic mindset. That’s what our team is based upon. Hard work and team. They bought into that and they’re Stanley Cup champs because of that.”
Berube had never been to the MAC before, and not surprisingly, his remarks were brief.
“To you fans and the city of St. Louis, you’re unbelievable,” he said. “Great sports town, great fans. That parade is something I’ll never forget in my life along with winning that Cup.”
He closed by thanking his girlfriend, Dominique Pino.
“She deals with me,” he said. “I’m not a very happy guy when we lose. I’m just OK when we win. I’m pretty damn happy when we win the Stanley Cup.”
Believe it or not, Berube has one more stop on the banquet circuit. On Jan. 20 in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia, he will accept an award by the Philadelphia Sportswriters Association. In the town where the Blues’ victory song “Gloria” came to be, the Blues are being honored as the association’s Team of the Year.
After playing nine games in 16 days, including five of their last six on the road, the Blues can finally catch their breath.
As disappointing as Wednesday’s 3-0 loss was in Pittsburgh, the big picture remains bright. Namely a Western Conference-leading 18-6-6 record.
“Big picture, we’re in a good spot,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “I think we’d all love to win 82 games. I don’t think any of us in this room are satisfied the way we played (Wednesday). But we’ll take these next couple days and get ready for Saturday. We’ve played a lot of hockey, so we’ve gotta make sure we regroup and get ready.”
Five of the Blues’ next six games are at Enterprise Center, starting with Saturday’s contest with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After a late night/early morning return from Pittsburgh, the Blues took Thursday off and return to practice Friday at Centene Community Ice Center. It’s the first time since Nov. 17-18 that they have had two days between games.
“And two days again after (Toronto),” Pietrangelo said. “We spent a lot of days on the road here. I think we’re all excited to kind of get home, spend some time with our families, and have a chance to kinda rest up and get ready.”
For the next stretch of hockey.
Pietrangelo didn’t think the Blues were aggressive enough defensively against the Penguins.
"A team like (Pittsburgh) that wants to play with possession, you can’t let them hang onto the puck,” he said. “We’re usually more aggressive. So I think it basically stemmed from our defensive play.”