By Jeremy Rutherford
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
St. Louis native Mike McKenna will never forget this summer. It began with a phone call from the Blues’ Al MacInnis and could end with a job playing for his favorite hockey team.
In July, MacInnis invited the 24-year-old goaltender to the Blues’ development camp. He performed well but didn’t know where it would take him.
Then about two weeks before the Blues headed to a rookie tournament in Michigan on Sept. 9, McKenna got another call asking him to participate in that event. He had another solid showing, which led to a chat with Blues coach Andy Murray.
“He pulled me away from everybody else and said, ‘We’re not doing this as a favor, but we’d like to have you at main (training) camp because we think you’re a good goalie,'” McKenna said. “Hearing those words from a respected guy like that was a huge compliment to me.”
So the former Parkway South High student and Kirkwood youth hockey player is between the pipes at Blues’ training camp this week at Scottrade Center. This changes his original plans: getting ready for the start of his East Coast Hockey League season in Las Vegas.
“It turned from, ‘Hey we need a goalie’ to now I’ve got a main camp invite,” McKenna said. “Whatever it turns into, whether I go back to Vegas and I don’t get a contract, or whatever happens, it’s been a great experience. It’s been a way to hopefully get my name out there again. If they don’t take notice, maybe somebody will.”
The Blues have taken notice.
“The one game (in Traverse) was one of the best goaltending performances I’ve seen,” Murray said of McKenna’s 41-save effort in a 5-0 win over Dallas. “He’s trying to establish some credibility, and we’re taking note of how he’s playing for sure. There are no favors. He’s here because he deserves to be here.”
Blues goalie Manny Legace said, “If he keeps it up, he’s going to put himself (in line) for a contract and win himself a good deal. He’s been playing great so far and seems like a great kid. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s out there stopping pucks all day long. That’s what you like to see in a young guy.”
Watching from the stands Saturday afternoon was McKenna’s father, Terry, who is an NHL off-ice official, keeping stats for the league at every Blues home game. Terry’s dad, Bill McKenna, was a longtime off-ice official before his death 10 years ago.
“It’s the thing that you don’t think will ever happen when your kid starts playing,” Terry McKenna said. “It just goes from level to level and you think, ‘Well, here we are here, now we’re at the next level.’ Someday, they’re going to tell you go to home, but it hasn’t happened yet, right?”
McKenna’s ECHL rights belong to the Las Vegas Wranglers, but the Blues could sign him to an American Hockey League contract.
“I just want to keep this going,” McKenna said. “I grew up watching this team my entire life, and this is what I’ve always wanted to do.”