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Scenes from Blues Stanley Victory Parade

Blues right winger Vladimir Tarasenko shares the cup with the crowd during team's Stanley Cup victory parade on Saturday, June 15, 2019, in downtown St. Louis. (Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com)

About 10,000 people showed up when Vladimir Tarasenko had his Stanley Cup day last month in Novosibirsk, Russia.

“So maybe like 5,000, 6,000 had a chance to take a picture with the Cup,” Tarasenko said.

Was Tarasenko in all those pictures?

“Almost every time,” he said. “But I needed to have a rest. It’s a lot of people.”

Those were the warm and fuzzy days of summer. They were pretty crazy, too. The post Cup celebration and parade in St. Louis. Partying in Vegas. The sight of goalie Jordan Binnington wearing sunglasses indoors at the ESPY awards.

“I know some of the NBA players and rappers wear shades inside,” Binnington deadpanned on Sunday. “I’m trying to make it my thing with the black shades there. I think it suits me. What do you think?”

There’s more. During a rush hour traffic jam on Interstate 64 — on an exit ramp no less — a Blues fan popped out of his car to greet Binnington, who was stuck in traffic as well.

“We talked for a couple minutes and he was on his way,” Binnington said. “He’s a funny guy. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but he opened the door. Usually that means he’s coming at you. But he was a pretty friendly guy and happy.”

Last year at this time, Binnington was anonymous in this town. Those days are over.

“I can’t really fly under the radar here,” he said. “It’s something to get used to. It comes with the territory. It’s been a lot of fun. You can tell the influence this team has had on the city is very positive and it’s fun to be a part of.”

Young center Robert Thomas said the same thing happened to him this summer — he was approached by a fan while in his car. At least Thomas was at a stop light.

And count Tarasenko, Binnington and Thomas among what surely is a large number of Blues players who got meals and beverages comped for them at restaurants and establishments all over town.

“After we won, the people are paying for dinners and lunches,” Tarasenko said. “They never show up (identify themselves), so you never know who it was. That was pretty nice. But St. Louis has been a nice hockey town always.”

“You always appreciate a free meal,” Binnington said. “I mean, free, right? It’s been great, and I’m looking forward to more.”

In a city that loves sports and loves its hometown sports heroes, these Blues will forever be legends in St. Louis after ending a half-century’s worth of a Stanley Cup drought.

All fine and dandy. But training camp started Friday, and the Blues are actually playing an exhibition game — at least some of them — Monday night in Dallas.

Perhaps Tarasenko put it best when meeting with reporters Friday.

“I know you guys have a lot of questions about the Cup and all this stuff,” he said. “Summer was nice, but it’s time to get back to work. If we keep living with the Cup memories you don’t have any success in the future.”

It’s a new season, and time to turn the page, to the point where the Blues even want to put their beloved celebration song — “Gloria” — to rest.

“I saw some ‘Petro’ words about it and I agree with him,” Tarasenko said, referring to team captain Alex Pietrangelo. “It was a cool thing for last year. It’ll be in our memories, too. But it’s time to move on. I think we gotta get a new song. So we’ll see. It’s not about a song, it’s about winning here.”

It was a short offseason. Compared to a year ago, when the Blues didn’t even make the playoffs, it was shorter by about more than two months. But the players have returned to camp looking refreshed and ready to go.

“We’ve got to start building what we want to do this year,” veteran Alexander Steen said. “Bring with us what we can from last year, all the learning experiences that we went through, because we had a lot of them, especially looking at the first half of the year.

“But I think you start fresh. We’ve got to redo everything again. Build the same structure, the same team camaraderie and all those selfless things we were doing last year.”

The Blues know if they don’t, if they live in the past, they will be passed in the standings.

“You can’t sit there and (say), ‘We’re Stanley Cup champions,’ ” coach Craig Berube said. “It’s a tough league. It’s tough to make the playoffs. There’s a lot of good teams. Our division’s very good. We gotta get ready. We got work to put in.”

Berube was all about setting a tone and getting a pace established in the initial practices over the weekend.

“As a coaching staff, we gotta make sure we’re monitoring our guys,” Berube said. “They just finished playing, not long ago. But on the other side of things, we gotta get the tempo back up and get 'em going. We’ve gotta find a mixture there.”

With an eighth preseason game this season and a short offseason, monitoring the workload of veteran players is one of the key points of emphasis in September.

“We’ll have a ‘big’ camp longer than previous years, just because we’re gonna want to make sure we have enough bodies to get through those games without taxing guys,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “But we have to get ready for opening night (Oct. 2). It’s coming very quickly. And Craig will work with his staff and talk to the veteran players on the number of games they feel are necessary.”

With 22 of the team’s 23 playoff participants returning, camp competition will be more about ice time than earning a roster spot. But hockey’s here. The Blues play three exhibition games this week — all on the road.

The regular season is just 2½ weeks away.


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