Several of the Blues’ top prospects surprised children at City Academy in North St. Louis with a street hockey clinic in the school’s gymnasium on Wednesday.
The clinic lasted nearly 90 minutes, but the memories that were created will likely last a lifetime.
The children enrolled there received lessons in how to hold a hockey stick, how to stickhandle through cones and other obstacles, and of course, learned effective techniques to shoot and score.
“They catch on pretty quick,” said Blues prospect Cody Beach, a forward that was drafted by the Blues in 2010 (fifth round, 134th overall). “It makes a difference in the community when the Blues support stuff like this. When you can put in time with kids that are young like this, it means a lot to them and it means a lot to us.”
The prospects are in town this week for an orientation with Blues management. Players learn what’s expected of them and how to improve their game and develop in hopes of reaching the NHL, including best practices for health and fitness. But Wednesday, they learned another side of being a pro hockey player: being in the community.
Players that participated included Beach, Joel Edmundson, Teemu Eronen, Jani Hakanpaa, Dmitrij Jaskin, Samuel Kurker, Mackenzie MacEachern, Colton Parayko, Tyrel Seaman, Ryan Tesink, Francois Tremblay, Nicholas Walters and Sebastian Wannstrom.
“It’s just amazing. You can’t describe the words,” said 12-year-old Alvin Hamilton, who participated in Wednesday’s clinic and will start sixth grade in the fall. “When I came in, I was like ‘Oh My God.’ It’s really awesome.”
City Academy was founded in 1999 with hopes of providing an exceptional and affordable educational opportunity to children who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. The school currently serves 160 students and is the only private elementary school in St. Louis that provides scholarship support to 100 percent of its students. As much as 80 percent of the school’s operating budget is funded through donations, while the other 20 percent is covered with tuition and fees.
“We’re proud of our students and our graduates as they go on to great secondary schools,” said Don Danforth III, the president and founder of City Academy. “They’re not only going to great schools, but they’re excelling and they are leaders, class presidents, scholar athletes and great citizens. It’s really made a positive impact on so many great kids.”
Edmundson, who was drafted in the second round (46th overall) in 2010, said he remembers when players from the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings visited his school.
“It brings back good memories and I know exactly what they’re feeling right now,” Edmundson said. “It’s just an awesome experience. I’m really excited to finally get out into the community and be involved with the kids. Just being here, seeing all the smiles, it’s a good feeling.”
Added Danforth, “The last three years, we’ve had a summer program where we’ve exposed the kids to floor hockey. Having the prospects here to get the kids more excited has been great. You can hear and see the enthusiasm. The kids are so fired up, they have jerseys on and it really brings it home. It’s been a fun day.
“They’ll talk about it for more than a few weeks, and hopefully we have some new and excited Blues fans. We want to expose our students to as many different things as possible. Certainly, this is one of those things; a lot of them haven’t had any experience with hockey, so this is a great way to introduce it. What better way than to have these prospects here so they can learn from the best?”