ST. LOUIS - Every once and awhile, life gives us a moment so big we remember every aspect of it in vivid detail: whether it was a sunny or overcast day, the noise of a neighbor mowing the lawn next door, or even the name of the DJ who introduced the song that was playing on the radio.
For St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, two of those big life moments have happened over the last two months. In July, he married Jayne - a St. Louis girl he met back in 2010 - and considers that to be the happiest day of his life. The second moment occurred just two weeks ago when Blues general manager Doug Armstrong called to ask if he would be interested in serving as the 21st captain in franchise history.
"I was visiting my parents back home, and my mom was in the kitchen. She was the first person I saw when I walked downstairs," Pietrangelo recalls. "I told her the news, then I told my dad, then I called my wife. Mom got emotional, dad said 'don't disappoint' - the typical dad response, but really, he was extremely proud - and my wife was super-excited. We had a nice dinner that night to celebrate and here we are." Here we are, indeed.
The Blues officially introduced Pietrangelo as the club's new captain during a press conference Thursday afternoon at Scottrade Center. The 26-year-old native of King City, Ontario will join an exclusive list of former Blues to wear an embroidered 'C' on the front of the jersey. That group that includes such legendary names as Al Arbour, Brian Sutter, Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Wayne Gretzky, Bernie Federko, Chris Pronger and Barclay Plager.
"When you look at the guys who wore the 'C,' those are some big shoes to fill," Pietrangelo said. "Not just good leaders, but good people that have represented themselves and their teammates in a great way. It's my job now to carry on that tradition."
Video: Pietrangelo, former captains discuss wearing the 'C'
The decision to name a captain came less than two months after the previous captain, David Backes, departed for the Boston Bruins via free agency on July 1. Backes had served as the Blues' captain for the better part of five seasons from 2011-16.
"Being a top draft pick and watching him grow into an elite player in our game, Alex is the perfect age to take the leadership role for this group," Armstrong said. "We have turned into a younger nucleus of a team, and he can guide that through the next number of years. We're excited to have him as a captain.
"Watching him perform when the game is on the line, he doesn't seem to get rattled," Armstrong added. "As the captain, you have to answer questions, the tough questions when games are over. I really like his personality, his demeanor to his teammates, to the coaching staff and to the media. He's someone that has the respect of everyone."
Aside from those intangibles, Pietrangelo boasts an impressive set of qualifications for the job. Since his NHL debut in 2008, he ranks seventh among all NHL defensemen in average ice-time per game (24:47), ninth with 252 points (50 goals, 202 assists) and is tied for 10th with a plus-62 rating. He earned NHL Second Team All-Star honors in 2011-12 and 2013-14 while also finishing in the Top 5 in Norris Trophy voting in each of those seasons.
Internationally, Pietrangelo is a three-time medalist with Team Canada, earning gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship and silver at the 2010 World Junior Championship.
"There's a trust from the coaching staff that you can put him out against the best players in the world all the time and you're still going to have an advantage," Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's a great feeling standing on the bench, knowing you have a guy that can go a little bit further than the person he's playing against, no matter what that person's skill level is."
"When you watch Alex play, his game has grown," said MacInnis, a former Blues captain who now serves as the Senior Advisor to Armstrong. "He always seems to elevate his play in big games and in the playoffs, and he's done that throughout his career. Game in and game out, he's consistent. Now is the time for him to take it to another level. He's certainly ready for it."
Although Pietrangelo is now the team's primary leader, he won't have to do it alone. The Blues also announced Thursday that Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, Vladimir Tarasenko and Kevin Shattenkirk will serve as assistant captains for the 2016-17 season, rounding out a leadership group that experienced first-hand what it takes to reach a Western Conference Final. It's also a group that knows it will take even more to deliver the ultimate prize: the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
"To me, it's the sense of cooperation from who you designate in your leadership group," Hitchcock said. "Alex is the captain. He's going to need everybody else in the leadership group to have his back. He is going to lean on a guy like Alexander Steen a lot, because those two have been through the wars together. They were picked as (assistant) captains when I got here and have gone through this full transition. We have become a team that has gone from friendships to teammates - we're there now. Accountability inside the locker room is at its highest level since I've been here and we don't want that to drop."
As he enters the prime of his career, Pietrangelo is both excited and ready to take on more responsibility. One of his primary objectives will be to have a feel for the state of the team, and to communicate that state to the coaching staff to impact everything from scheduling to practice drills to days off.
But despite the extra responsibility, Pietrangelo won't change who he is, whether that's as a person, player, friend or teammate. After all, those are the qualities that got him here in the first place.
"For me, this is obviously a big responsibility," he said. "I'm up for this challenge, and I think I've surrounded myself with a group of guys in this locker room that can support me, no matter what happens. Personally I want to keep growing as a player and lead by example on the ice. All I've known is the St. Louis Blues and the city of St. Louis. To be in this position to represent not only the team but the organization as a whole, it means a lot to me."