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Blues' first Stanley Cup championship celebrated at Hockey Hall of Fame

Eclectic display includes photos, equipment, memorabilia

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

TORONTO -- What's missing from Ryan O'Reilly's helmet might be the best part of the scarred shell that's now in a Hockey Hall of Fame display case, part of a celebration of the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

O'Reilly wore the white helmet on June 12 during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, the Blues' 4-1 victory at TD Garden giving St. Louis its first championship since it joined the NHL in 1967. The white Bauer bucket didn't survive unscathed; the ear loop on the left side is missing, as is the chin strap, and there's a deep slash across the forehead.

"It got absolutely destroyed during the postgame celebration," Blues equipment manager Joel Farnsworth said. "A few of us remember seeing bits and pieces of it on the ice. When we got home, we thought, 'What better way to show the exuberance of the celebration, and even reflect our entire season, than with a helmet that had been shredded?' "

Every year, the Hall of Fame pays tribute to the Stanley Cup champion with a display case near the foot of the stairs up to the Great Hall, where inductees are saluted with plaques that form a kind of honor guard around the game's historic trophies. Halfway up the stairs there's a large illuminated photo of the current champion, a shot of the winners sprawled on the ice taken in the moments following their victory.

The display of photos and memorabilia is an annual tradition, one that starts to take shape immediately after the Stanley Cup is presented -- and sometimes even on the ice as players, coaches and their families mill about in celebration.

The new display case will be a popular photo opportunity for Blues fans, and others, who visit the Hall of Fame during the offseason and throughout next season. It's an eclectic assortment of items, including:

• Goalie Jordan Binnington's trapper, worn during the Western Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final.

• Captain Alex Pietrangelo's gloves, worn during Game 7, and the stick the defenseman used to score what proved to be the Cup-winning goal.

• O'Reilly's battered helmet.

• Forward Vladimir Tarasenko's skates and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester's jersey, worn during Game 3 of the Cup Final.

• Pucks from each of the seven games of the Final.

The new display is a featured attraction at the Hall; another, just inside the entrance, is a multimedia celebration of the lives and careers of friends and fellow legends Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky, while a third charts the history of goalie masks through the decades.

The wheels of the Blues' charter flight to St. Louis in the wee hours of June 13 were barely off the runway in Boston before Farnsworth was being worked over (gently) by Phil Pritchard and Craig Campbell of the Hall of Fame.

"Joel has been great with us because he was all in right from the beginning," said Pritchard, the so-called "Keeper of the Cup" who is curator of the shrine and vice president of its resource center. "So has [Blues general manager] Doug Armstrong in getting us this stuff."

The harvesting of equipment for the display didn't happen nearly as quickly as the negotiation for it. The equipment was needed for one last Blues team photo that was taken at Enterprise Center on June 15, the day of their parade through downtown St. Louis before an estimated 500,000 fans.

Farnsworth set about gathering what was agreed upon, packing it up in a large duffel bag so that Mike Bolt, who ushers the Stanley Cup on its world travels, could convey it to the Hall of Fame at the end of June.

"We always tell Canada Customs what we've bringing in and what it's for, and most times it's no problem," Pritchard said. "But there are times when the guy at customs wants to see the stuff. We always get it across (the border), but they're hockey fans. They want to see what we've got.

"It's the same way with the Stanley Cup or if we're traveling with other trophies. They'll ask, 'Do you have time to show us this today?' I think that's what's great about our sport. There are so many hockey fans out there who appreciate the history. It makes it a lot easier for us to travel and take stuff back and forth."

Farnsworth said that he and his assistants, Rich Matthews and Andrew Dvorak, "put our heads together a little bit" to decide which items to give the Hall for display.

"They like to try to make up a player head to toe with equipment," Farnsworth said. "We gathered some random pieces that I knew guys were going to be retiring or were done with. We didn't put ourselves in a pickle by giving away a piece of equipment someone still wanted to use."

Pietrangelo's gloves and stick were naturals, and there's a story behind the latter.

"[Pietrangelo] scored what ended up being the game-winner, then he cracked his stick on his next shift," Farnsworth recalled. "Rich (Matthews), who spent 17 seasons with the New Jersey Devils before he came to us in St. Louis a couple years ago, has a whole lot more experience in a Stanley Cup Final than me. Pretty quick thinking on his part -- he grabbed a Sharpie and put a little mark on the stick, nothing overly noticeable, but he wanted to make sure that one didn't get lost in the shuffle."

Farnsworth and the Blues expect to see the display and their glowing photo when they're Pritchard's guests at the Hall of Fame during St. Louis' visit to Toronto to play the Maple Leafs on Oct. 7.

"We have a pretty incredible history as an organization, considering we had never won anything," Farnsworth said. "The roster of players and Hall of Famers who played at least some time here … the history of the organization is incredible. It's cool to finally have this moment for the franchise."

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