ST. LOUIS - Like he always does, Ryan O'Reilly was doing a meet and greet with an underprivileged family after a game this season when the dad said he admired O'Reilly's hat and would try to save up enough money to buy one just like it.
Right then, without hesitation, O'Reilly removed his hat and gave it to him.
That's the type of person he is.
And that's just one of many reasons why O'Reilly is the Blues' nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to an NHL player who exemplifies leadership on and off the ice and has made significant contributions to the community.
"It's extremely special," O'Reilly told stlouisblues.com of being nominated for the award. "It starts with the charity department here in St. Louis, which makes it so easy for me to reach out and do things in the community. It's a privilege and an honor to be up for this award. I just try to impact things as much as I can at an influential time of my career and help the community as best I can."
In March, O'Reilly invited an entire group of First Nation hockey players and their families to the Blues' game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre. Almost a year earlier, the team was competing in a tournament and faced racism and hurtful comments from opposing players, fans and even referees. O'Reilly brought them to Ottawa, he said, because he wanted to personally tell the kids to "keep enjoying and keep loving playing the game. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't."
Soon after arriving in St. Louis last summer, O'Reilly purchased a Club Level Suite and four Plaza Level tickets for every game at Enterprise Center in the 2018-19 season. He donates the suite to either underprivileged children and their families, children battling life threatening illnesses or to disabled athletes such as the Blues Special Hockey Club. The four Plaza Level seats are given to community all-stars - children who demonstrate acts of compassion, leadership, respect or courage in the community.
Every kid gets a T-shirt and puck, plus a postgame meet-and-greet with O'Reilly himself.
"I didn't even know that, but that's the type of guy he is," teammate David Perron said of O'Reilly. "He does so many thing nobody knows about, and it's truly an honor to be his teammate. He's got a big heart, he wants to make a difference in all kinds of aspects in life. The way he treats people, obviously this is a great gesture by him to be doing that. He means a lot to our team and he means a lot to the community in St. Louis."
On the ice, O'Reilly's leadership speaks for itself.
The 28-year-old forward set career-highs in assists (49), points (77) and plus/minus (plus-22), leading the club in those three categories. He also tied his career high in goals with 28. He finished the regular season leading the League with 1,086 face-off wins and was selected to his second NHL All-Star game in January.
"Just getting to know him, he does everything perfect on and off the ice," Perron said. "He's been a great leader for our team, and even for me personally that has been around the League for a long time now, you can learn off guys like that. It's been incredible to play with him on the same line on certain nights and to be in the room with him and practice and see how hard he works. He stays on the ice and works on his game. That's helped me and that's helped a lot of us get better as the year went on. Part of the turnaround (on the ice) is definitely his play on and what he brings in the room."
The King Clancy Memorial Trophy will be awarded at the 2019 NHL Awards in Vegas on June 19 (7 p.m., NBCSN).
"For us hockey players, hockey can be a way of life. It's what you do, you eat, sleep and train it," O'Reilly said. "After a game, good or bad, going out there and seeing a kid with cancer or seeing a kid that's been doing something good in the community, it's a great way to bring things back to more important things in life.
"I'm just trying my best to make their day."