Following the longest off-season in anyone’s memory due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Louis Jr. Blues, proud members of the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL), have announced that their 2020-21 league campaign will begin October 1 with a 2:45 pm faceoff against the Rochester (Minn.) Grizzlies. Their series will conclude the next night with an 8 pm puck-drop.
The Jr. Blues will be playing this season-opening series at the St. Peters Rec-Plex in St. Charles County, Missouri. The move to St. Charles from the Jr. Blues’ traditional home of Affton Ice Rink was brought upon by a combination of factors, including St. Louis County’s restriction on high- contact youth/junior sports but also because of ongoing construction at the Affton Rink.
“We were always going to have to begin the year at a home away from home,” Jr. Blues head coach Chris Flaugher said. “Affton’s undergoing a renovation that required the entire floor of the arena to be replaced, so obviously no ice for a while there. We made our best efforts to remain in St. Louis County at a suitable venue but could not feasibly play games there under the current rules in effect. We thank the staff at the St. Peters Rec-Plex for being able to provide us with a temporary home rink in this busy time.”
A new venue isn’t the only thing for the Jr. Blues this year, either. Flaugher will be joined behind the bench this year by a new face in Dan Pettibone, who will be working with Jr. Blues as a defensive assistant, as well as coaching the Affton Americans 16U Central States team. A native of Webster Groves, Missouri, Pettibone played youth hockey with the Webster Wings and high school with the Webster Skatesmen before winning two ACHA Division II league championships at McKendree University. He also served several years with the US Army Reserve and has coached a number of youth and high-school level teams.
Joining Pettibone behind the bench will once again be two Jr. Blues alumni in Lukas Daniels and Mark Staub. Daniels will be returning for his second year as a coach: the former ACHA National Champion with Lindenwood will primarily be working with forwards. Staub has been a Jr. Blues fixture for more than two decades, not just as goaltending coach but also running the game timing and scoring software during games.
“Every strong team on the ice needs a strong team off it,” said Flaugher. “I’m really excited to be working with these guys this year and learning from them as much as our players are. Dan and LD are both two great coaches who have a lot of great ideas, and Mark’s been the reason why our goaltending has always been at such a high standard.”
As for the team on the ice, Flaugher’s once again excited about the level of talent the Jr. Blues can boast this year. “Man for man we’re a team with a lot of great complementary parts,” he notes. “Every guy has a role and has really been executing it well in practice and scrimmages. We can’t wait to show the people of St. Louis our brand of hockey.”