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One more celebration awaits Blues — a White House visit on Oct. 15

One more celebration awaits Blues — a White House visit on Oct. 15

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Stillman's local group takes over full ownership of Blues

St. Louis Blues chairman Tom Stillman holds the Stanley Cup overhead during the victory celebration in downtown St. Louis on June 15. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

The Blues got their championship rings Monday at a team dinner. They enjoyed the banner raising Wednesday, signifying their Stanley Cup championship in 2018-19, prior to their season opener against the Washington Capitals at Enterprise Center.

Now, as Brayden Schenn put it early in the week: “It’s game-on after that. No looking back in the past and thinking how good a team we were last year.”

Well, not quite. The Blues have one more piece of unfinished business when it comes to celebrating their NHL title: a visit to the White House.

And that comes on Oct. 15, at the tail end of a four-game, eight-day trip that takes them to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and the New York Islanders. The Blues play a noon game (Central time) on Oct. 14, Columbus Day, in New York against the Islanders, then head south to the nation’s capital for the White House visit the next day.

As of Wednesday, the Blues had yet to receive a precise itinerary from the White House.

“My understanding is we’re going to get there at 1:30,” Blues chairman and governor Tom Stillman said. “We’re going to have a tour. And we’re going to have a little ceremony with the president at 3:30 p.m.”

The Blues don’t play their one (and only) regular-season game in Washington until March 24. They didn’t want to wait that late in the season for their visit. And with the early start Oct. 14 against the Islanders and then two off-days before their next game — an Oct. 17 contest against Vancouver — Oct. 15 seemed like a good spot for the visit.

“I think it’s an honor for the team to be invited to the White House, so I’m happy we’re going,” Stillman said.

The Blues will be only the second St. Louis pro franchise to visit the White House after winning a league title. The Super Bowl XXXIV champion Rams never scheduled a visit after the 1999 season, for reasons that remain unclear.

The St. Louis Hawks of Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley won the NBA title in the 1957-58 season. But the first White House visit for an NBA champion didn’t come until President John F. Kennedy, who was born in suburban Boston, invited the Boston Celtics in 1963.

For the last few decades, it has become customary for champions of major professional sports leagues — at least those from the United States — to visit the White House. As well as champions in college sports. But during the presidency of Donald J. Trump, only about half of those championship teams have visited the White House.

Some have not been invited by the president; others have decided not to attend. And in some cases, individual athletes from those teams have chosen not to attend.

In the case of the Blues, the team believes its entire roster will attend.

It’s a roster that currently includes only three U.S. players: forward Zach Sanford is from Salem, Mass.; forward Mackenzie MacEachern is from Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; and defenseman Justin Faulk is from South St. Paul, Minn.

The remainder of the roster includes 16 players from Canada, two from Sweden and two from Russia.

In addition, two retired players who were part of the Blues organization last season are expected to attend on Oct. 15: forward Chris Thorburn, who is from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and defenseman and St. Louis native Chris Butler.

“I’m looking forward to it,” goalie Jake Allen said. “Whatever your view on politics is, it’s your own personal thing. But just the experience of going and seeing (the White House), not many people get that chance. It’s going to be pretty neat.”

Allen has never been inside the White House.

“I’ve been outside, around the fence and that stuff,” Allen said. “But just a regular tourist.”

Not only has forward Oskar Sundqvist been inside the White House, he’s been there for a championship visit as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins following the 2015-16 season during the last year of the Barack Obama administration.

Sundqvist was also part of the Pittsburgh organization that repeated as Stanley Cup champions in 2016-17. But he was a member of the Blues by the time that Penguins team visited the Trump White House in October 2017, and Sundqvist did not attend.

“It’s a special house,” said Sundqvist, who is from Boden, Sweden. “It’s something you’re going to remember for the rest of your life. How it looks in there. How cool it is in there.

“Usually you get a tour in the beginning, and then you wait for the president to come. He shakes everyone’s hand. And then he’s having like a little speech in his media room and stuff like that. Usually, you give out a gift for him.”

As for Stillman, he once worked as a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Commerce, so he’s been to the White House for meetings.

“But not as part of a tour,” he said.

During several recent White House trips by championship teams, including the Clemson football team, the North Dakota State football team and the Baylor women’s basketball team, the guests have been served fast food.

It’s not known if the Blues will be fed, but if that’s the case, Stillman noted: “I’d really prefer the Sausage Egg McMuffin. I really think the Sausage Egg McMuffin is kind of a delicacy.”

Tom Timmermann of the Post-Dispatch staff contributed to this story.

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