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Heartland Of Hockey In Its Truest Form

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The recent Blues home game against Anaheim had an Easter Egg of its own

Blues captain David Backes greets athletes from the DASA Blues after a scrimmage at Scottrade Center
Blues captain David Backes greets athletes from the DASA Blues after a scrimmage at Scottrade Center
St Louis Blues Facebook

Whenever a new Marvel or DC movie is on the way, I really enjoy watching the YouTube videos that break down the trailers and ads for the upcoming flicks. The best parts are when they pick up some artifact in the background that reveal something cool about the movie, or a hip reference to the original source material. They are just little things, but it is those details that flesh out the movie experience. Easter eggs, they're called.

It's rare, but sometimes real life has its own Easter Eggs.

Take for example the Blues home game on March 11th. That was part of my half-season plan, and part of that glorious 6-game winning streak. Anaheim is a tough team, and it felt great to emerge from that game with another win. It was probably announced ahead of time, but I was unaware that there was an event after the game as well. I was (pleasantly) surprised to find out that after the Blues were finished with the Ducks, we'd get some bonus hockey in the form of the local DASA Sled Hockey team.

I didn't know that St Louis even had a sled hockey team.

This was a real treat for me. I love opportunities to see familiar things in unfamiliar forms or perspectives. I'd seen Sled (or Sledge) Hockey on TV, but never in person. I was totally impressed by these athletes, and I had the fortune to be nearby someone who was familiar with the team. There was a guy in the stands who was friendly with the team, and was sharing with the others what he knew. They practice and compete at the ice arena in Wentzville, and he'd seen them play quite a bit. One thing that stuck with me is that, apparently, the chirping in sled hockey is absolutely brutal. Our own Steve Ott could probably take some notes.

This was the first night with a new phone, so pardon the amateurish camera work:

Here's another clip:

You might notice the blur knifing through traffic, wearing #6 in white. That would be Josh Pauls. If your eyes are particularly quick, you'll notice that he and only a couple others are also wearing US flag emblems. That denotes that they are part of the USA Paralympic team. Not only does St Louis host a sled hockey team, but one that features athletes that perform at the highest level of international competition!  That night, they even got the Jumbotron treatment. Here is one of his goals:

The title image was taken from the Blues FB page, and the full gallery can be seen HERE.

I obviously have a lot of ground to catch up on, but I intend on at least keeping up with how our DASA Blues and the US Paralympic team are doing. If you'd like to do the same, here's a little starter kit:

First, some information about DASA (Disabled Athlete Sports Association).

More specifically, read up on the DASA Blues and also their Junior/Developmental program. The local athletes that compete internationally for Team USA are:

Josh Pauls (@spudsusa27) Defense: His story can be found HERE.

Billy Hanning (@Hands2Feet1) Defense

Steve Cash (@stevecash34) Goalie. His considerable list of accomplishments are HERE.

Also, on the ladies side, the DASA Blues also feature:

Katie Ladlie (@one_legged_girl) Forward: There's a really excellent write up about her HERE.

Going forward, there is an excellent opportunity coming this week.

The men will be competing March 29 through April 2 in Buffalo, NY at the 2016 Pan Pacific Championships. This is essentially pool play that will eventually lead up to the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics held concurrently with the Winter Olympics. Team USA are defending champs, and everybody will be gunning for them. Obviously, like all things hockey, there is a big rivalry with Team Canada. You can read more about the tournament HERE (including a kickass video) and you can even watch the competitions online there this week.

For several years, the St Louis area has been fostering hockey talent, but it's not been well-publicized. When the Blues launched the "Heartland Of Hockey" campaign, it would be easy to scoff and treat it like just another marketing gimmick. However, like most things in life, it is whatever you put into it. We, as Blues fans and Hockey fans ("captial H" hockey) bear some degree of responsibility for fulfilling that statement. Whether it is trucking the kids at the crack of dawn to the arena for midgets practice, being a loyal fan in the seats for the Springfield, IL NAHL Junior Blues, writing about the local Lindenwood Lynx, simply playing in a rec league, coaching and helping others learn how to play, or supporting the DASA Blues, it all buys in to the same concept. Sometimes, the fruit of that labor is realized when a local kid makes it to the NHL, or when one of ours earns a gold medal at the Paralympics. They got to where they are because they and you helped build the Heartland Of Hockey.