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Family finds signed O'Reilly youth hockey card during home renovations

The DeJong family lives in Ryan O'Reilly's childhood home and found old hockey card just before start of Stanley Cup Playoffs

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

Back in 1909 in Brucefield, Ontario, a school house was constructed to serve the children in the community. Later, that school house was converted into a home and eventually was owned by Brian and Bonnie O'Reilly, who raised their children - Ryan and Cal - there, along with as many as 50 foster children over the years.

The school house is now more than 110 years old and is currently owned by Pat and Lisa DeJong, who have two children.

Recently, Pat started renovating the kitchen and found what his family considers several "treasures" hiding behind some old cabinets.

"There were a number of treasures we found back there. One was a Lil Bow Wow CD," Lisa told stlouisblues.com. "Someone obviously listened to Lil Bow Wow. But the No. 1 treasure we found was a hockey card signed by Ryan O'Reilly."

The card features a 14-year-old O'Reilly in his youth hockey playing days. He signed the card as "Snook O'Reilly" - something he hasn't done since becoming a star in the NHL. Because his family fostered so many children - several of them named Ryan - his grandmother nicknamed him "Snook" to differentiate them and the name stuck.

"It was 'little mischievous kid,' like a rat," Ryan said in a 2016 interview with Sportsnet. "I guess I was back then."

It's anyone's guess how long that card has been buried behind those cabinets - at least one decade for sure, maybe almost two?

"The signature doesn't match any of the current signatures we've seen of him lately, so it's definitely something he signed when he was young," Lisa said. "It has details on the back like he looks up to his brother, Cal, who played for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL at the time. I think it's a summer hockey card. For us, it was really fun because our son is also 14 now and he plays hockey locally here. He thought it was an awesome treasure to find. At 14, somebody asked Ryan to sign that card and then Ryan made it big, so it's exciting for our son, Christian - maybe (one day) that could be him, too!"

Christian is a goaltender who played with the BCH Ice Dogs but now plays rec-league hockey because there weren't enough players for a competitive team. Christian is a Pittsburgh Penguins fan primarily but since he lives in the O'Reilly's old house - and his bedroom even once belonged to Ryan or Cal, he's not sure which - he also roots for Ryan and the Blues.

Occasionally, Christian still finds pucks in the far reaches of the yard or even in the trees, clearly lost back when Ryan and Cal would shoot pucks outside as children.

For the DeJongs, it's a cool thing to think about. They cheered on the Blues last season as they chased down the first championship in franchise history, and it was exciting to know they were cheering for one of their hockey heroes in the same way - and living room - that Ryan did as a child.

"When he won the MVP, we literally jumped out of our seats," Lisa said. "It was surreal."

Last August, before beginning his Stanley Cup parade in his hometown, Ryan started the morning by visiting his old house - and Christian even got a picture with the Stanley Cup champion that day in the driveway.

"We knew he was coming to the area, we planned on going to the parade and seeing the Cup at the arena," Lisa recalled. "I looked out and I saw the float and was like 'Oh my Gosh, I think that's them.' My son went out and got his picture out at the end of the driveway with Ryan. He was star-struck."

Now that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are beginning again, you can bet the DeJongs are pulling for Ryan and the Blues.

"We hope they do it again. That would be awesome," Lisa said. "We want him to bring the Cup back here again."

Video: O'Reilly visits childhood home to begin day with Cup

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