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Cardinal ace Carpenter tries his luck on skates

Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 4:55 PM / NHL Insider

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

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Cardinal ace Carpenter tries his luck on skates
Six days after pitching the St. Louis Cardinals to an 11th World Series title, Chris Carpenter was spending time reliving memories of another sport that he mastered quite well in high school.
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Six days after pitching the St. Louis Cardinals to an 11th World Series title, Chris Carpenter was spending time reliving memories of another sport that he mastered quite well in high school.

Instead of lacing up his cleats, Carpenter was lacing up his skates and sharpening the blades. He was on the ice with the St. Louis Blues for the team's practice Thursday morning at St. Louis Mills, putting his 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame through some light drills.

The 36-year-old Carpenter, who won Games 1 and 7 to help the Cardinals down the Texas Rangers in seven games in the World Series, was having a blast. He was taking shots, parking himself in the slot area and making saucer passes to Blues players, who were loving every moment spending time with one of the other pro athletes in town.

"It's awesome," said Carpenter. "For these guys to even give up some of their time to allow me to come in here, I know what it's like ... I just wanted to get out of everybody's way, just watch really, and then they invited me to come out here and skate a little bit.

"It was a lot of fun. I was just hoping not to embarrass myself. But they were all great."

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Carpenter, who was joined at practice by recently retired Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Cardinal athletic trainer Barry Weinberg, has a hockey history.

When he was 16, Carpenter was an all-state defenseman for Trinity High School in Manchester, N.H. He was an all-stater his last three seasons in high school, and scouts from the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins were checking to see if he had an interest in pursuing hockey on a full-time basis.

Carpenter chose baseball instead.

"It was always a dream to do that (play hockey), but I think I chose the right route," said Carpenter, who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays with the No. 15 pick in 1993. "Hockey made you much tougher, I know that. Growing up playing hockey made me much tougher than baseball would have. It's a tougher sport, funner sport. I enjoy it a lot."

The Blues, who have been going through a tough stretch with a 5-6 mark, enjoyed having the World Series pitcher skate with them.

"It's good when you've got stuff like that," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "The Cardinals and us have had a really good relationship with each other. We've had batting practice with them, we've shared some time at the ballpark.

"I think it's awesome to respond in this sort of matter when a guy like that comes on the ice and have some fun with us. He looks great. He can shoot the puck, he can skate. I asked him if he plays in any men's leagues and he goes, 'No, but when I'm done (playing baseball), I'm going to be playing.'"

The players were asked jokingly if any of them feel threatened that Carpenter would steal some of their ice time.

"We were joking about it that maybe we could use him on the power play to help us out," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "He seems like a pretty good player out there. He's probably better at hockey than we are at baseball. It's good to see him. I think we all know he's a pretty good athlete."

A handful of Blues players were on hand during the summer to take batting practice with the Cardinals.

"I don't think we'd be standing at the plate hitting any of his pitches," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said of Carpenter. "I think he's got us beat in that category. ... I'm not a power hitter, I'll tell you that much. You won't see me hitting any shots out of the park."

Added Colaiacovo, "Some of us were swinging through fastballs like whiffle balls."

With the Blues' special teams (No. 30 on the power play and No. 29 in penalty killing) in need of a boost, coach Davis Payne was open to suggestions.

"I'm not sure whether he's a D-man or power forward or what he wants to be," Payne said of Carpenter. "I didn't know he was capable of putting skates on.

"It's good to see the guy out there. Any time you can get around a winner, it's good for your guys."

Carpenter, who is an avid hockey fan, has season tickets for Blues games. He will be on hand, along with La Russa and hometown hero David Freese to participate in a pre-game ceremony Friday where La Russa will drop the ceremonial first puck prior to the Blues hosting the Vancouver Canucks.

But for one day at least, Carpenter was able to live out a dream of skating again. It won't be the last time, either after scoring a couple goals, "I had a couple, but it's 3 on 1," Carpenter joked.

"You don't realize how fast (hockey players) are until you get close up," Carpenter said. "You can sit in the stands or watch on TV all day long. But these guys can fly.

"Best part is I enjoy skating, it's a lot of fun. The toughest part is trying to do anything to not embarrass myself so I don't look like a fool."


Quote of the Day

When I first became captain here, Monsieur Beliveau came to me and said, 'You're going to be fine. You don't have to change, you got selected because of who you are.'

— Saku Koivu on Thursday, recalling what he was told by the late Jean Beliveau when he was named Canadiens captain in 1999
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