EDMONTON - Soon after arriving in the bubble in Edmonton, Troy Brouwer opened his hotel room door, turned on the lights and found something that made him feel right at home.
On his bedside table was a photo of his wife, Carmen, and their two children, Kylie, 7, and Cade, 4. Next to that were two cards from his kids made out of construction paper - Kylie's said "I love you dad to the moon and back" and Cade's featured a hand-drawn Blue Note and the message "Go Dad, I love you."
"It was not what you're expecting when you come into the bubble," Brouwer told stlouisblues.com. "It's nice to have little things like that from your family showing that they love you and they're making an effort to make you happy. When I came to St. Louis in early July (for Phase 2), I had to leave them back home in Calgary, so I've been away from them for almost a month now. Little things like that, it just makes it a lot of fun knowing that they're pulling for you."
Brouwer wasn't the only player to find a surprise - every Blues player had a photo of their families or loved ones waiting for them in Edmonton. Vladimir Tarasenko's son, Sasha, even shipped his dad his favorite toy: Boulder from Transformers Rescuebots.
If the Blues are to bring home a second consecutive Stanley Cup, it means most of the players will be away from their families until early October. That's no small sacrifice - and Carmen Brouwer knows it. In the weeks before the teams left for the bubble, Carmen organized a group text chain amongst the Blues Better Halves and acquired family photos, printed them and had them shipped to the hotel before the team arrived late on Sunday night.
"For her, it's just a time and effort thing," Troy said. "I know the guys really appreciated it. She's very organized and makes it easy on me to go do what I do. It's not easy with the kids at home, but they're a little bit older now and I bet they loved helping, too."
When Brouwer left home for Blues training camp, his son, Cade, who is a hockey player himself, had one question.
"Dad, are you gonna go win a Stanley Cup?" he asked.
"I'm gonna try," Troy said.
"OK, Dad," Cade replied. "You can go to St. Louis, then."