Stopping in Washington after completing a four-game road trip with a 3-2 overtime loss at the New York Islanders on Monday, the Blues received a tour of the White House and were welcomed into the Oval Office by President Donald Trump for a private meeting before the outdoor ceremony.
"Being able to see the [Oval] Office and getting a tour of the White House, it doesn't get much better than that," Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said. "They're all different. They're all different stuff. But this is one you'll remember forever."
Every current member of the championship roster attended, along with former Blues defenseman Chris Butler and forward Chris Thorburn. They were accompanied by the Stanley Cup, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and 11-year-old superfan Laila Anderson, whose battle with the rare and life-threatening inflammatory syndrome, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis inspired the Blues throughout last season.
Off to a 3-1-2 start this season, the Blues viewed the ceremony as the final occasion to celebrate what they accomplished last season. They wanted to get it done earlier in the season rather than wait until they were in town to face the Washington Capitals on March 24.
After the White House visit, they headed back to St. Louis to prepare for their next game against the Vancouver Canucks at Enterprise Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; SN1, FS-MW, NHL.TV).
"This allows us to just kind of stay focused on this year as opposed to getting broken up and going back and celebrating it again," Blues forward Alexander Seen said. "This will be nice. Put it in the rearview mirror now, keep our focus on the season."
The U.S. Marine Corps band played Laura Branigan's 1982 pop hit "Gloria" when the Blues took the stage in the Rose Garden to begin the ceremony.
President Trump later explained how St. Louis was 15-18-4 and in last place in the NHL on Jan. 3. "Gloria" became the Blues' victory anthem after a few players heard it while visiting a private club, Jacks NYB, in Philadelphia on Jan. 6, and St. Louis defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 the following day.
"It was a win song," Trump said. "That's why we played it. So now everybody gets it."
The Blues went a League-best 30-10-5 over the remainder of the regular season to finish third in the Central Division and then defeated the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to win the first championship in their 52-season history.
"The St. Louis Blues' amazing comeback reminds us to never give up, never lose faith, never ever quit," Trump said. "Just keep forging ahead. You never know. Just keep forging ahead. But this team is really exemplary, starting the season so badly where they were in last place and people had written them off and … when you work hard, support each other, believe in yourself and give everything you've got, victory is within reach."
Noticing that Steen was missing a tooth, Trump brought him to the podium to pose for a picture with him and asked, "You think I could take him in a fight?"
Steen didn't think fighting the president with so much security around was a good idea.
"I don't know," Steen said. "I don't think I'm going to try that out."
Trump lauded Schwartz, who led the Blues with 12 postseason goals, center Ryan O'Reilly, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs, captain Alex Pietrangelo and goalie Jordan Binnington.
After Trump noted that Binnington saved 32 of 33 shots in a clinching 4-1 victory against the Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, he quipped, "So, why didn't you stop the other one?"
Binnington replied, "That's my bad, I guess. But we went all that way, so we had to finish the job."
When Trump called Schwartz up to the podium to say a few words, the 27-year-old native of Wilcox, Saskatchewan native challenged the president, an avid golfer, to a golf match.
"I was nervous," Schwartz said. "I kind of blacked out. I don't really remember what I said."
Trump also acknowledged Anderson by calling her up to the stage and giving her a hug. Anderson proved to be a good luck charm when she was healthy enough to travel to Boston for Game 7 of the Cup Final and celebrated with the Blues on the ice after their championship-clinching victory.
"Laila, your exceptional courage and the fact that you brought the team some luck, which is important, right? We all need a little of that. We just want to thank you," Trump said. "You inspired the Blues all season and today you continue to inspire all Americans. We all know your story right now."
At the conclusion of the half-hour ceremony, Blues owner Tom Stillman presented the 45th President of the United States with a No. 45 Blues home jersey with his name on the back.
"It is really an honor to be here and to be here with you," Stillman told Trump. "It's also an honor to be here with a group of guys that's behind me here. They showed tremendous not only skill and ability in their sport, but great character and persistence. I think they serve as a model for not only our sport (and) other sports, but how to live your life, and, as you said, never giving up."