ST. LOUIS — Al MacInnis grabbed one of his old wooden sticks and wound up for a slap shot.
Another former St. Louis Blues great, Bernie Federko, took the ice and passed a few pucks to Alex Pietrangelo.
Blues center Ryan O’Reilly stepped aside to give Brett Hull a chance to show off his wrist shot again. And former Blues forward Keith Tkachuk had a moment in the spotlight to take a shot too.
The Blues alumni’s close involvement with the current team was on full display during the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills presented by New Amsterdam Vodka at Enterprise Center on Friday as part of the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend, with the festivities being held here for the first time since 1988.
Even Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, a St. Louis center for all of 31 games (including the Stanley Cup Playoffs) during the 1995-96 season, was on hand. Before the skills events began, he called St. Louis one of the greatest cities in the world.
And with the hockey world’s eyes on St. Louis, the former Blues players did their best to help make the weekend a memorable one for area fans.
“It’s incredible,” said MacInnis, the senior adviser to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. “It couldn’t happen to a better group of hockey fans. I love it. I’ve been here for 25 years. I know what it means to these people. I know what it means to the hockey fans. Lots of credit’s got to go to (Blues chairman) Tom Stillman, (president and CEO of business operations) Chris Zimmerman and their group banging the League’s door down to host these events because we know what St. Louis is all about.
“… Listen, the All-Star Game is in St. Louis, I work for the Blues, we just won the [Stanley] Cup. We were all trying to help out growing the game. Hullie participated, Gretzky, Tkachuk, Bernie Federko. How do you say no to that?”
MacInnis, a defenseman who played the final 10 seasons (1994-95 to 2003-04) of his 23-season NHL career with the Blues, took a 100.4 mph slap shot prior to the Enterprise NHL Hardest Shot after having participated in many such competitions as a player.
Federko, a forward who played 13 of his 14 NHL seasons with St. Louis (1976-77 to 1988-89) and played the most games (927) in its history, appeared with Pietrangelo before the captain took part in the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting.
Hull, a forward who played 11 seasons in St. Louis (1987-88 to 1997-98) and holds the Blues goals record (527), stepped in to take a shot during O’Reilly’s turn in the Shooting Stars (it didn’t count). Tkachuk, who played nine seasons in St. Louis (2000-2010), also stepped onstage and took a shot before his sons, Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk and Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk, took part in that event.
Current NHL players were impressed with the showing by the Blues alumni.
“I thought that was really cool, a really cool touch and I think the fans like it,” Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid said. “Some obviously special players have played for St. Louis, and it’s cool to see them come back and be recognized.”
The Blues Alumni Association, established in 1988, has helped forge a bond between current St. Louis players and those from the past.
“The boys love having them around and seeing them,” said Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, the winner of the Bud Light NHL Save Streak. “It just goes to show how special the city of St. Louis is with the alumni coming back and enjoying themselves. It’s good for the fans to see them back on the ice. Overall, it was well done.”