The St. Louis Blues climbed from last place to the Stanley Cup last season, and their turnaround inspired one family to another arduous feat.
Chris Loynd, his wife Kelechi and their four children from Olivette, Missouri reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in June, drawing from the Blues' run to their first championship. Chris and Kelechi's 10-year-old twin sons, Alex and Alan, became two of the youngest to ever reach the 19,341- foot summit legally.
"I can't be more proud of my whole family," Loynd told NHL.com. "It was inspiring. It was by far the best thing we've ever done as a family and probably the riskiest thing we've done but by far the best."
The Loynds are avid Blues fans, and Chris was at Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, where he got the towel that Alex and Alan are posing with in their picture at the summit. Chris and Kelechi drew on St. Louis' unlikely ascent this season to complete the challenging 10-day hike. The Blues were 31st in the League in points on Jan. 3 but rallied to win their first Stanley Cup championship.
"It was quite amazing to see this run, especially going from last place," Chris said. "We were inspired by the Blues to just keep going and never give up and that anything is possible."
The twins reached the summit on their 10th birthday, the first day they were legally able to do so, along with their sisters Adaeze, 11, and Amara, 8.
Chris coaches Alex and Alan's hockey team in the St. Louis Rockets youth organization, and they played at Enterprise Center during intermission of a few games this season. They were interviewed after one of their games and announced to in-arena host Carlie Lawrence their intent to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania.
Chris scaled Kilimanjaro in 2003, which gave him some hope that his children could reach the summit. They initially planned to visit Kelechi's family in Nigeria, where she is from, then decided they'd add Kilimanjaro to the trip. Chris, Alan and Alex trained for about a year in the leadup, taking multiple trips to Colorado to help train their bodies for the altitude, but he and Kelechi still had typical parental fears when planning the trip.
"I always wanted to redo this with my family since it was one of the best experiences of my life," Chris said. "Without a doubt, you never know with kids how they're going to do if they're going to stop complaining, if they're going to fall and break their leg. I had no control over some of this stuff."
With Kilimanjaro in the books, the family is thinking about its next endeavor, which could include a trip to Japan to hike Mount Fuji next year
"That would be something in the distance that I don't know if we're going to be able to do," Chris said. "I don't know if the kids got the mountain bug or mountain fever, but it's kind of cool to see."