ST. LOUIS - So, where did you go to high school?
It’s a question that’s commonly asked when people in St. Louis meet for the first time because it can tell you everything from religious beliefs to economic status. If your answer is Chaminade, though, it might mean you’re a pretty good hockey player.
Take Paul Stastny and Chris Butler, for instance.
Both are former Chaminade students that helped their school achieve success on the ice. Both went to the University of Denver to further their education and hockey careers, and both have reached the game's highest level as professionals in the National Hockey League.
Despite that success, though, both Stastny and Butler remain humble. Both signed new contracts with the Blues this summer and after hearing GM Doug Armstrong and Head Coach Ken Hitchcock were holding a surprise Q&A in front of a school assembly at Chaminade, they decided to crash it.
"When that idea came up, I was pretty excited about it," Stastny said. "I loved it at Chaminade. They always had a good hockey team, and away from school, we had fun. Some of my best teachers were at Chaminade and some of my best friends are guys I went to Chaminade with."
Students cheered wildly when Stastny and Butler entered the auditorium, and that comes as no surprise. The two are legends in this part of town. A handful of Chaminade alumni have made it to the NHL (others include Ben Bishop, Yan Stastny and Neil Komadoski) and Paul Stastny is part of the school's Hall of Fame.
Both players arrived Monday in Chaminade hockey jerseys, but before the end of the assembly, each slipped on the Blue Note. It's a move that was symbolic of their career progression.
"It’s an opportunity I never thought I would have growing up in St. Louis," Butler said. "You get a chance to put on that jersey and wear it with pride, knowing that this is the team that got me excited about the game. I watched some of the great players that came through: Al MacInnis, (Chris) Pronger, (Brendan) Shanahan, guys like that I remember watching as a kid…to wear that same jersey is going to be really cool."
Paul Stastny moved to St. Louis when he was eight years old. His dad, Peter, is a Hockey Hall of Famer who finished his NHL career as a member of the Blues. After his retirement, Peter remained in St. Louis to raise his family.
Butler is a native St. Louisan. His parents met at Saint Louis University, where his dad played ice hockey and his mother played field hockey.
"I remember growing up with sticks all over the house," Butler said. "I had no idea what to do with those because they were all right-handed and I was a lefty. Hockey was never forced upon me, but obviously both my parents had a tremendous passion for the game. It was something I loved doing as a kid."
Stastny has played eight NHL seasons, tallying 160 goals and 298 assists (458 points) in 538 regular season games, all with the Colorado Avalanche. Butler made his NHL debut in 2008-09 with the Buffalo Sabres but most recently has played for the Calgary Flames. Last season, he played in 82 games with Calgary, registering two goals and 14 assists.
"Paul Stastny has got the inner passion to win and he’s extremely competitive in the game, and even in practice," said Matt Buha, who coached both Stastny and Butler at Chaminade in 2001-02. "The Blues are getting someone very demanding of himself to be the best he can be and deliver that to the team he’s playing for. He understands the financial commitment the Blues have made to him, and he’s going to want to deliver what the Blues have invested in him and more.
"And (Butler) is a gentleman. He’s got a great sense of humor, he’s very well-grounded,” Buha added. “He comprehended every aspect of the game. He knows where to go with the puck, he doesn’t try to do too much. After the fourth or fifth game (of watching him play), you start to notice you can’t recall any mistakes. He’s not flashy, but he’s solid and does his job."
There's no doubt the Blues are getting two extremely talented hockey players. But what's more, they're getting good people whose roots were planted right here in our town.
"Whether it’s people I’ve hung around with or people I’ve met, (people in St. Louis) just have that midwest feel," Stastny said. "I’ve been other places, but nothing feels quite as much like home as when I go back to St. Louis."