‘Our Sasky boys’: Regina families cheer on St. Louis Blues

Click to play video '3 Saskatchewan-born NHLers aim for Stanley Cup' 3 Saskatchewan-born NHLers aim for Stanley Cup
WATCH: The St. Louis Blues advanced to the Stanley Cup Final Tuesday night with a team featuring 20 Canadians and three of whom, grew their talent in Saskatchewan – May 22, 2019

Tyler Bozak netted his fifth goal and 10th point of the NHL Playoffs in Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. The St. Louis Blues went on to win 5-1 and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.

Bozak’s family was in the St. Louis stands for the goal and the win. His dad, Mitch, flew down to St. Louis during the regular season and has been following the team ever since. He says Tuesday night’s game was the loudest he’s ever heard.

“It was very special. You could feel the excitement in the air,” Mitch said.

READ MORE: St. Louis Blues beat San Jose Sharks, march on to Stanley Cup Final

The atmosphere was electrified when Bozak scored.

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“I was just excited that it went in,” Mitch said. “When I saw that he had got the goal, it was even more special.”

But before the Regina-born centre was scoring in front of millions, he started out playing with his brother, Justin, on an outdoor rink made by his dad.

“They both loved playing out on that rink. It wasn’t the prettiest of rinks, it was the weirdest shape but they spent a lot of time on it,” Mitch said. “It’s kind of the grassroots of hockey in Saskatchewan.”

Tyler Bozak skates at the Optimist Arena in Regina, Sask. at the age of two.
Tyler Bozak skates at the Optimist Arena in Regina, Sask. at the age of two. Mitch Bozak

Homegrown talent

Bozak isn’t the only Saskatchewan player on the Blues roster. Brayden Schenn is from Saskatoon and Jaden Schwartz grew up in Wilcox.

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Before Schenn and Schwartz were teammates, they were opponents playing against each other in minor hockey.

“As kids when you’re growing up and you’re playing against each other they’re always still friends,” said Schwartz’s dad, Rick. “They got to know each other over those years especially with the World Juniors.”

“For Saskatchewan minor hockey, it’s a really big deal. Three Saskatchewan boys came through the system and they’re on the same team. They’re best friends.”

READ MORE: Blues defence fuels offence in 4-2 Game 2 win over Sharks

The hockey gene fell into Schwartz’s lap, as he followed in the footsteps of his older brother and sister, Rylan and Mandi. Rylan played hockey at Colorado College and Mandi played NCAA Division 1 for the Yale Bulldogs.

“When you have an older sister and an older brother, that’s very competitive when you’re playing against them all the time,” Rick said. “I think it’s helped him growing up knowing that he’s always had to try a little bit harder.”

Schwartz struggled in the 2018-19 regular season, but he currently leads the Blues with 16 points in the playoff run. Rick says “a lot of luck” has to do with it, but it’s also Schwartz’s hard work,  determination and inspiration that he draws from his late sister.

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“That was [Mandi’s] famous saying: never lose heart and just struggle and emerge. And he did struggle, now he’s emerged,” Rick said.

Bleeding Blue

Twenty Canadians are on the St. Louis Blues roster, giving fans something to cheer for since Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto were all ousted in the first round of playoffs.

“A lot of people have said that ‘hey, there might not be a Canadian team in it, but there is a team built up of a lot of Canadians,'” Mitch said.

READ MORE: Timo Meier scores 2 to lead Sharks past Blues 6-3 in Game 1

Both Rick and Mitch say they have received countless phone calls, texts and well wishes, cheering on the Blues.

Rick’s even gone as far as making a game day ritual, to ensure the team wins.

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“We kept our routine the same as we did a few nights ago when we won,” Rick said.

Rick, his wife, and a handful of friends watched Tuesday’s game on TV – all of them sitting in the same spots and wearing the same clothes, including the dog.

Rick Schwartz hosts a viewing party to watch St. Louis take on San Jose in Game 6 of the NHL Playoffs on Tuesday. Rick Schwartz

Rick and Mitch are still hammering out the details, but they plan to be in the stands for Game 1 in Boston on Monday. They are hoping to see the boys live out a childhood dream and take home the Stanley Cup.

“[Our] Sasky boys, that’s what they call them. Our Saskatchewan boys are going to pull through.”