|Matt Walker drops the puck on a faceoff at a youth hockey practice during the Blues 2007 Rink Tour on Sunday, Oct. 14.
(Photo by Chris Pinkert).
Rebecca Wiseman spent several years looking for Jay McKee.
As a native of Buffalo, New York, Wiseman grew up watching McKee play defense for the Sabres. Over the course of his 10-year career in Buffalo, McKee quickly became one of her favorite players.
“I think when he played, everyone stepped it up and worked harder. He had that about him,” Wiseman said. “When he stepped on, everyone stepped up their game. He brought that level and that intensity with him.”
Yet, despite Mckee playing for a full decade in her hometown, Wiseman never got a chance to meet him. The Sabres did their fair share of community appearances, but they never crossed paths.
That is until Sunday, when McKee found her.
Wiseman, a forward for the Michigan State Spartans’ women’s ice hockey club, was in town for a weekend of games against Lindenwood University. And Sunday, the Blues had several players visiting ice rinks around the St. Louis area.
So when Wiseman finished Sunday’s game and walked out into the lobby to see McKee greeting fans and signing autographs, her jaw nearly hit the floor.
“It was really cool,” Wiseman said. “When I heard a couple of St. Louis Blues were here, I was like ‘oh, I hope it’s Jay McKee, I hope it’s Jay McKee.’ I could never have imagined this.”
Funny thing is, McKee used to play just minutes away from her home, but she had to travel halfway across the country to run into him.
“I was able to spend 10 years in Buffalo and build a relationship with fans there,” McKee said. “So to come here randomly and run into a girl that’s a fan from back there, it’s pretty neat from both of our ends.”
Blues players, alumni, broadcasters and management made appearances at 13 different local rinks Sunday as part of the second annual rink tour. While there, they met with fans, signed autographs and participated in youth hockey practices.
“This is a great opportunity for us to give back to the local hockey community,” said Blues President John Davidson. “It was such a great turnout last year that we wanted to do this again this year. We are hoping to make this an annual event for all of the rinks and kids in the St. Louis community.”
An estimated 4,000 fans turned out for last year’s event.
“We talked the talk all summer about getting fans back,” said forward David Backes
, who joined McKee for an appearance in Wentzville. “It’s time to show them that we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do, and that’s be a hard working team out there.”
Goaltender Hannu Toivonen and defenseman Matt Walker showed up at the Ice Zone at St. Louis Mills and met with fans for 45 minutes before stepping onto the ice to practice with the Twin Bridges Lightning youth hockey team.
“We really appreciate people coming over and having a chance to go out there with the kids. It’s always fun,” Toivonen said. “It reminds us how fun hockey can be. It’s great that the Blues organized this whole thing. We’re proud to be here.”
“The Blues are certainly over and above this year from what I’ve seen. We’re really trying to reach out to our fans,” McKee said. “Like the slogan goes, ‘whatever it takes.’ That’s what we’re trying to do.”