One of the most exhilarating aspects of collecting memorabilia is the possibility of a random, chance meeting with a well known personality from the hockey world, be it a player, executive, or even a television or radio announcer. If you are knowledgeable and observant, you just never know who you might run into and encounter in public.
It can be as simple and innocuous as perusing the menu while out for dinner. One evening several years ago, my family met for a meal at a restaurant on Pershing in University City and I saw they offered cavatini, an Italian pasta featuring sausage and noodles. It was noisy, so I loudly asked my brother if he wanted the "Paul" or "Gino" cavatini (well, somewhat close to Cavallini). Before he could really answer, a gentleman at another table got up, came over and said, "I recommend the Paul as it is much better than the Gino." Of course it was Paul Cavallini, the all-star defenseman for the Blues.
My first personal experience meeting hockey people was actually an arranged meeting with Sid Salomon III, the first owner of the Blues. My father occasionally played golf with "Sid da Turd" (as Noel Picard infamously called him) and got me invited to Salomon's house in Town and Country, where he graciously chatted hockey with me for over an hour. I sat in his bedroom while he packed luggage for a trip to New York for a NHL meeting and was able to ask him questions about the business side of owning the Blues, as well as anecdotal stories about individual players. I was so busy talking about hockey that I didn't ask him for a job with the Blues (I had just graduated from college), the real purpose of the visit, at least in my father's mind. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun to hob-knob with the boss of the Blues.
Living in Ohio in the early 1970s proved to be advantageous for this avid Blues fan as I was easily able to attend a Blues' training camp in Flint (or was it Ann Arbor?). My memory of this trip is somewhat hazy, yet I do remember driving up Interstate-75 to Michigan for a two day visit with the Blues. Players were accessible as they waited to go on the ice (and after practice), and I met and briefly chatted with the likes of Ernie Wakely, Bob and Barclay Plager, Jimmy Roberts, Gerry Odrowski, Carl Brewer, Phil Roberto, Terry Crisp and a young, long blonde-haired center just acquired in a trade, Garry Unger. I also happened to strike up a conversation with an older man there, who turned out to be Lynn Patrick (HHoF 1980), the Blues' first coach and first GM. That encounter turned out to be an hour discussion about hockey and Patrick's role with the organization, as well as a history lesson about the NHL specifically the New York Rangers) and what it was like to be a player back in the "good, old days." He also introduced me to coach Scotty Bowman, who happened to walk by. I will never forget how kind and gracious Mr. Patrick was to a young, impressionable hockey fan eager to learn about the game.
Going to Sweden in 2009 to see the Blues play the Red Wings in the Premiere series (and beat them twice coming from behind) provided several opportunities for chance encounters, the most notable when my brother and I went into a bar in Stockholm to get something to eat. We had just arrived after a long flight and were pretty hungry, after first stopping at a tobacco shop for a Cuban cigar for me and then an outdoor coffee bistro. There is nothing quite like smoking a Cuban, sipping strong, black Swedish coffee while watching the people of Stockholm stride by on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. We chose a restaurant/bar that had four different Swedish Elite League games on televisions. We saw this guy with a baseball cap sitting alone, and I approached him to find out what teams were playing, first asking him if he spoke English. He looked up at me and said, "Of course I speak English, Rick..." It was Alexander Steen, who we had previously sat at the same table with the year before at the Missouri Athletic Club breakfast the Blues used to sponsor. Later on the trip we ran into David Perron, Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie a couple of times, at the hotel and at a department store. And we met and briefly chatted with the Premiere games' officiating crew at an Italian restaurant. I recognized referee Bill McCreary, and introduced myself, telling him how much I "hated him", which got the others, referee Greg Kimmerly and linesmen Shane Heyer and Lyle Selzer, laughing out loud. What a great bunch of guys!