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Ari's impact on the Blues was beyond measure

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

We've all had moments in our lives where we've gotten bad news and it stopped us in our tracks.

One of those moments came on Tuesday night during our game in New Jersey.

Not long after we finished celebrating Vladimir Tarasenko's game-tying goal in the second period against the Devils, we were alerted to a post on Facebook with an update on Arianna Dougan, the amazing 11-year-old we got to know so well when she joined our team for a road trip in March.

Ari's mom, Lori, had shared the following message:

"This is not a post anyone should have to write ever. Childhood cancer should not be a thing but it is....and so here it is ......Arianna is rapidly losing lung function. We have been told that soon her lungs will stop functioning. There is nothing more that can be done. She is not going to be better... She will not be leaving this room with us. She will not be turning 12, having a first kiss or a high school prom.

ARI DOES NOT want to talk about it, she is not saying goodbye to anyone and therefore we are only saying Love you."

Suddenly, hockey didn't matter.

The two points that were on the line against the Devils felt entirely meaningless. Ari wasn't going to be around to see how our season ended. She wouldn't be joining us for another game or singing the national anthem on Hockey Fights Cancer night like we had planned. She wasn't going to go on another road trip or take another selfie on the ice with Tarasenko ever again.

Video: Tarasenko surprises an 11-year-old on her birthday

That realization shook us to our cores. The third period played out on the ice in New Jersey, but we barely noticed.

After about 10 minutes of thinking about how life isn't fair sometimes, we picked ourselves up and got back to work. The bracelets Ari handed out read "Fight like Arianna… always with a smile," so we couldn't stop doing our thing if Ari was still doing hers - and by doing her thing, we mean maintaining a charming, positive and inspiring attitude despite knowing she wasn't going to win a battle with cancer that she had been fighting for the last eight years.

Ari passed away peacefully on Saturday morning, but not before she impacted all of us in ways that the words you're reading right now on your smartphone or laptop screen could never possibly communicate.

She made us smile. She made us laugh. She made us cry. She even made us homemade cookies on a trip that was intended to be FOR her!

When our cameras followed her every move on the road, sometimes we felt a bit intrusive, like maybe we should back off and let her enjoy the trip without us around. But Ari wouldn't have it. She enjoyed being a celebrity. She liked being recognized by hockey fans on her way to the rink and she loved being on TV, so she wanted us to stick around. So that's what we did, and we're thankful for every moment of it.

Video: Ari goes on a road trip with the Blues

If we were to sit down and think of the all the ways Ari has impacted our organization, we'd miss our next 10 hockey games.

Here are just three quick examples of the impact that she made in a very short time:

1. After physically-demanding games and a long road trip, players are quick to get off the plane, get in their cars and head home. But after Ari's trip, which landed around 2 a.m., every player, coach, pilot and flight crew member stood in line to say goodbye. They had been touched and inspired by Ari's unshakeable courage, and they weren't going home without telling her how they felt.

2. Because of Ari's incredible trip, the Blues have made a commitment to bring a child in need on a road trip every year, and that's why Levi joined us for a one-game trip to Carolina two weeks ago.

3. The day after the Blues returned home from New Jersey, Tarasenko and his wife, Yana, went to visit Ari at the hospital. They didn't go because they felt the need to say goodbye. They went because they had developed a special bond, one that came from terrible circumstances but was strengthened through hope and admiration for one another.

The world is a sadder place without Ari, but we're thankful to have gotten to know her and to have given her a distraction from her battle with cancer, if only for a few days. Her road trip was supposed to create lasting memories for her, but it ended up meaning the world to us.

At the request of Ari's family, please do something nice for someone today. And use #SpreadArisLight and #FightLikeAri if you share a story or memory about her on social media.

We're going to keep fighting like Arianna, always with a smile. But on days like today, that's much easier said than done.

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