http://www.stltoday.com/sports/hockey/p ... e7b02.html
The Blues will walk out of their New York hotel today and board a bus. Their destination will be a hockey rink. They’ll have an afternoon practice.
And that is when the similarities of their regular routine will end.
The Blues are making a 180-mile round-trip trek to Yale University in New Haven, Conn., in support of teammate Jaden Schwartz. He will be joining his family and the Bulldogs women’s ice hockey team to honor his late sister Mandi, who lost her battle with leukemia in April 2011 at age 23.
Yale is hosting Brown University at 7 p.m. at Ingalls Rink and it will be “White Out for Mandi,” a night set aside to celebrate her life and benefit the Mandi Schwartz Foundation. The hope is that the Blues’ attendance, in addition to standing behind Jaden, will lead to even more interest in the event and promote further cancer awareness.
“We are very excited, very excited,” said Carol Schwartz, Jaden’s mother. “We’re just tremendously honored that they would even consider bringing the whole team to come down to Yale. We were very touched.”
An off day for the Blues before they face the New York Islanders on Saturday, Jaden had asked the team if he could make the trip, maybe taking along a few teammates. But when the Blues learned about the “White Out” for Mandi, they weren’t about to let only a small group show up.
“When Jaden asked us for permission to go himself,” general manager Doug Armstrong said, “that was the first I’d really heard about it. Then finding out that we were in the proximity, it just seemed like something I thought the whole team should participate in. Jaden is part of our family and it just seemed so logical for our team to go. I view it, we’re more thankful to them for allowing us to be part of it than for us going there.”
Schwartz, although he doesn’t typically show much emotion, was floored.
“I didn’t really expect it to be honest,” he said. “I was planning on going and whether a couple of guys came with or not, it was up in the air. But when the whole team decided to come, it was pretty special and it will mean a lot to us.”
The Blues will practice at Ingalls Rink at 3 p.m. and stick around for the first period of the Yale-Brown game before returning to New York City.
“It’s the least we can do,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We have a bunch of players that really genuinely like Jaden and his family and we’ve got a lot of guys that are willing to do anything to help him out, and this is just a small part of doing something for him. I think it’s going to be good for our players to see how much Mandi meant to that program because she meant a ton to that program.”
Mandi played 73 consecutive games for Yale before her diagnosis for acute myeloid leukemia led to extensive chemotherapy and months of hospitalization. She was in need of a bone-marrow transplant, and her search, and thus her story, galvanized the hockey community. The right match never came, but through many organized drives for Mandi, Yale reports that nearly two dozen other patients around the world did receive transplants.
“It was such a strength to know that so many people were trying to help her,” said Carol Schwartz, “and even today that her story is being told to help other people ... it means the world to our family.”
Mandi had a hand in creating the “White Out” before her passing, and now her former Yale teammate, Aleca Hughes, has taken the reins, also running the foundation.
“Mandi was incredible,” Hughes said. “She was a great teammate, she was an incredible role model, so hard-working and determined. Always looking to make herself a better hockey player, but in that process encourage the development and growth of her teammates. She was humble, and smart and just a caring friend, and that’s what motivated me day in and day out to continue to share her story with others.”
The goal tonight will be to break the single-game record attendance of 1,539 at Ingalls Rink, set on Nov. 1, 2005 for a Team USA exhibition game.
“We’re hoping for 1,700 because it will break the record and Mandi wore No. 17,” Hughes said.
Mandi’s jersey still sits in her locker stall, which Jaden will see for the first time.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Yale is a big school and where Mandi loved to spend time, she really enjoyed it there, so I’m looking forward to seeing it all. It’ll be nice to see a lot of familiar faces.”
Including those of his Blues’ teammates.
“He’s such a great kid, an absolute favorite teammate of mine all-time,” forward Alexander Steen said. “He’s just humble down to earth and it comes from his family. They’re all the same; I’ve had the pleasure of meeting his parents. It’s going to be a special night for us as well. The hockey aside, it’s important for us to show him what he means as a friend, not just as a player.”