As many alert readers (ARs) know from reading this column, I was able to attend two world-class athletic competitions earlier this year: The Masters Golf Tournament in April and The Kentucky Derby in May. Many ARs also know from other sources that I attended another championship competition in June: The Stanley Cup Finals. It’s notable that all of these competitions were won by underdogs who prevailed against increasingly higher odds. Tiger Woods, who won The Masters, faced odds of 14 to one; Country House won The Kentucky Derby despite odds of 62 to one against him, and The St. Louis Blues won The Stanley Cup defying odds of 250 to one against them in January.
As a longtime fan of The Blues; as one of the minority owners; and as an unashamedly proud St. Louisan, I was exhilarated. It was a huge thrill to be present for game seven in Boston; to hoist The Stanley Cup on the ice of TD Garden; and to take part in the celebratory parade through Downtown St. Louis three days later. It was great fun to win a bet with our friends at Harpoon Brewery in Boston, the terms of which require them to serve Schlafly at their pub while wearing Blues regalia. (We had previously lost two bets with them over the World Series in 2004 and 2013, so it was our turn.)\
One of the highlights for me in game seven did not take place on the ice but in the seats directly in front of me, which were occupied by Laila Anderson and her mother. As most ARs most assuredly know, Laila is a heroic young girl battling a disease called HLH. (I hadn’t heard of it either and can’t explain it adequately other than to note that it’s extremely serious.) She got to know some of the Blues players when they visited Children’s hospital and became a huge fan. The feeling was and is mutual. I was pleased to be able to talk to Laila and her mother between periods and to hear her inspiring story.
Another highlight was meeting Rick and Carol Schwartz. For the benefit of ARs who may not know who they are, they’re the parents of Jaden Schwarz, one of the stars on the Blues team. Just as important, or perhaps even more so, they’re the parents of Mandi Schwartz, a talented and promising hockey player whose career was cut short by leukemia, from which she died in 2011 at the much too young age of 23.
I first learned about Mandi in 2014 when the Blues traveled to New Haven, CT to practice at Yale University, where she had played on the women’s hockey team. As a further gesture of solidarity with their teammate Jaden the Blues watched part of the Yale women’s team game against Brown. As important as this personal tribute to Mandi was, an even greater purpose was raising awareness for bone marrow transplants that could save the lives of patients like her.
In addition to meeting Jaden’s and Mandi’s parents, I met their brother Rylan, who plays professional hockey in Germany, along with two former players from the Yale women’s hockey team. While the women from Yale may not have been ardent Blues’ fans, they were there with the Schwartz family to promote The Mandi Schwartz Foundation (http://www.mandi17.org/). I was particularly touched when Rick Schwartz gave me a player’s card that included a photo of Mandi and a piece of a sweater she had worn in a game.
One week after the Blues’ Stanley Cup parade I had an opportunity to help fight another dreadful disease: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease. While I had always been aware of ALS, the awful reality hit home when an AR and long-time friend named Chris Canepa was diagnosed with it. Despite inclement weather on Saturday, June 22nd, a huge crowd turned out in Forest Park to take part in The Walk To Defeat ALS. Although lightning forced the cancellation of the walk, it could not dampen the spirits of the walkers who raised tens of thousands of dollars. It was especially inspiring to see Chris himself in attendance with his wife and some of their children.
The perseverance and courage of individuals like Laila Anderson, Mandi Schwartz and Chris Canepa are extraordinary and edifying. And while odds against finding cures for horrible diseases might at times seem insurmountable, so too were the odds faced by Tiger Woods, Country House and The Blues.
owners who colluded with Stan Kroenke to move the Rams out of town.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery