When the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to prevent the St. Louis Blues from making their annual holiday hospital visits this year, Ryan O'Reilly reached out to the team's community relations staff to figure out an alternative.
Through some creative brainstorming and some schedule-making from O'Reilly himself, the players visited hospitalized children virtually last week by driving a robot, which was wearing a Blues jersey, into each patients' room. The robot was controlled over the internet and had a tablet on its shoulders so the children could see and interact with the players using Zoom.
Little things like figuring out how to carry on tradition during a pandemic and recruiting a handful of teammates to participate are just a few of the ways O'Reilly shows his character off the ice.
But then there are big things, too, like winning the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy, the Selke Trophy, leading the team in scoring for two consecutive years and representing St. Louis in back-to-back NHL All-Star Games… and that's just in two seasons!
When you add it all up, you get that once-in-a-lifetime sort of captain candidate that's usually pretty hard to find.
On Wednesday, Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong announced that O'Reilly will serve as the 23rd captain in franchise history.
Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and Colton Parayko will serve as assistant captains.
"Seeing the veterans that we've lost over the last year (Pietrangelo, Alexander Steen, Jay Bouwmeester, Jake Allen), I think with my mindset, I knew there was responsibility for myself to do a lot more," O'Reilly told stlouisblues.com. "When Chief and Army asked if I would like to wear the 'C', I said 'absolutely.' It's exciting and it's an honor. There aren't a lot of guys that get chances like this."
Video: Blues reveal 23rd captain in team history
O'Reilly will join a distinguished group of players to serve as captain for the Blues. Legends such as Al Arbour, Red Berenson, Bob and Barclay Plager, Brian Sutter, Bernie Federko, Brett Hull, Chris Pronger, Al MacInnis, and Wayne Gretzky have all worn it before.
"It's an honor to be amongst those names," O'Reilly said. "When you look in our dressing room at the captains of our team, and all the guys that are there, what they did for the game and what they did for the organization, it's an honor to be a part of it and a legacy I want to continue."
David Perron said management made a good decision in selecting O'Reilly for the job.
"I think it's a great choice," Perron told stlouisblues.com. "There are many good leaders on this team, but obviously with guys leaving a big void like Petro, Steener and JayBo, you need guys to step up. I think he's been that guy for us. We've developed a great chemistry together so far, and he does that with many of the guys he plays with. It shows his work ethic and his character and everything, and we're really happy for him that he's our captain."
Video: O'Reilly holds first press conference as captain
"There are a lot of things I don't know how to do that I'm excited to learn," O'Reilly said of his new role. "The culture that has been built here started with guys working hard, being committed and being responsible for each other. I know I want that to continue, and I know the leadership group wants that to continue. We want to represent the city of St. Louis and this organization well.
"I think we will."