Schenn’s Friends provides great meaning for Blues captain

Win or lose, Brayden Schenn always finds perspective thanks to meaningful connections made through his community work in St. Louis.

Schenn’s Friends provides great meaning for Blues captain

Feature Photo: Louis Blues

Perhaps the best way to describe Brayden Schenn’s charitable initiative comes in the form of a heartwarming social media post from the St. Louis Blues last January.

The video shows Schenn’s Friends in action as the Blues captain and a young man by the name of Christian are seen hanging out together on the St. Louis bench during the team’s warmup ahead of a home game.

Christian, an avid Blues supporter, was born with Down syndrome and also diagnosed with autism and verbal apraxia a motor speech sound disorder resulting in limited or difficult speech ability.

After a few photos, Schenn circled back and hands Christian a stick and a puck. Throw in a Schenn goal and a Blues win, and it made for a perfect evening for both player and fan.

“If you can form a connection, even if it is for a short time, that is something special,” said Schenn. “Every time that I head home from those moments, it stays with me.

“I feel fortunate to be in the position to have those opportunities to meet a lot of great people.”

Something that the veteran, now with over 900 games played in his NHL career, has done for years.

The program provides suite tickets to patients at St. Louis Children's Hospital, allowing them to attend a Blues game at Enterprise Center with their families. The experience also provides each patient with a jersey, along with the opportunity to watch warm-ups from the Blues bench and a visit with Schenn.

“I think it was after my first year in St. Louis when I started the program,” said the Saskatchewan native, who came to the Blues in a trade with Philadelphia in June 2017.

“We started by giving out four tickets and having people sitting on the bench for warmups, putting them on the Jumbotron and a meet and greet after the game.

Schenn, who was named the 24th captain in Blues history this past September, has widened the scope of Schenn’s Friends this season.

“This year, it’s transitioned into having a box, which Ryan O’Reilly [the former St. Louis captain who is now with Nashville] had when he was here, where we have people come there through Schenn’s Friends. They can enjoy the game, have some food and drinks, and enjoy one another’s company. I still do the meet and greets, which I love doing.

“We’ve had military members in the box, kids who are battling cancer, kids from the children’s hospital, firefighters from St. Louis it’s been nice to open it up and have more people enjoy the experience.”

In addition to his program, Schenn, who won the Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019, has hosted patients and their families for holiday skates, along with assisting the team in granting the wishes of two Make-A-Wish recipients.

He has also lent his time and support to Hockey Gives Blood and The Mandi Schwartz Foundation’s Run For Mandi.

Founded in 2018 by former hockey players, Hockey Gives Blood, which is partnered nationally with Canadian Blood Services, strives to create awareness in the hockey community about the importance of blood and stem cell donation.

Schenn’s close friend and former St. Louis Blues teammate, Jaden Schwartz, lost his sister Mandi, a standout hockey player with the Yale Bulldogs, to cancer 13 years ago.

To honour her legacy, Run For Mandi takes place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, each summer.

In 2019, more than 60 people had their cheeks swabbed in the hope of becoming a potential stem cell donor.

Schenn was one of them.

“Jaden is a good buddy, he’s a great guy and he’s big into helping his sister’s charity,” he said at the time. “It’s nothing at all for me to help out. They are a great family and I’m honoured to do whatever I can.”

For Schenn, any of the interactions over the years with individuals and families affected by serious illnesses prompt moments of self-reflection.

“It truly is all about perspective. After a game, you could be mad about the loss and it’s front and centre in your mind, but when you listen to people’s stories and what they are going through, it puts a whole new perspective on life.

“You don’t want to see anyone go through any life-changing illness. When you meet kids dealing with something serious, it is even more difficult to see them going through those challenges.”

They have a friend in the Blues’ nominee for the 2023 King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which is given annually to the NHL player who "best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community."

Schenn’s charitable work is ever evolving.

“I still have kids who will come up to me at signings or community events to say hello. It’s nice to see them again and hear how they enjoyed their time skating on the Enterprise Center ice or meeting some of the players.

“The best thing about it is the smiles that you get after the games. Win or lose, to see those smiles and how much it means to them is very meaningful to me.”