“I remember sitting on the couch thinking, ‘It’s amazing how far we’ve come,’” McKenna said.
His father, Terry, played on the area’s first youth hockey team, in the early 1960s, and his grandfather Bill would drive two hours, to Springfield, Ill., to play on a rink that had boards.
“If my grandpa saw this, he’d have tears in his eyes,” McKenna said.
Bill McKenna also helped found the
Kirkwood Youth Hockey Association, where Hrubes’s sons play and where the enrollment, Hrubes said, has doubled in the last three or four years. More and more, Hrubes has noticed players he once coached returning to lead the next wave, including Komadoski.
The caliber of instruction, coupled with an entrenched culture and rising participation, is primed to make St. Louis an American hockey hub. It’s unlikely that the area will again churn out five first-round picks, but that, McRae said, is fine.
The overall depth should continue to improve; another AAA program, CarShield, has popped up. More players will earn Division I scholarships and compete in juniors, the Paralympics or, like Jincy Dunne, on the women’s national team. Some may even wind up, years from now, in one of Rupp’s notebooks, or in the handshake line after a grueling N.H.L. playoff series.
When Maroon and Bishop found each other at the end of their series last week, they shared a long embrace. Behind them, a member of the Blues’ Blue Crew skated past.