(Photo Credit-The Hockey News)
When you see a left handed stick with the jersey #17 hop on the ice this September, keep in mind it’s not Vladimir Sobotka. The Czech left the Blues for a green paper sweetened offer to go play in the KHL and therefore left behind his jersey number. It didn’t take long for Jaden Schwartz to request it from the team and this was done for a reason that was both sentimental and noble. Schwartz is occupying the jersey # to pay tribute to his fallen sister, Mandi Schwartz. She lost a fierce battle with leukemia in April of 2011 but before she went the lady played hockey at Yale University and donned the #17. Schwartz was only 23 years old when she passed away. Mandi nearly beat the disease, going into remission not too long after her 2008 diagnosis. In the end, her body gave out but her legacy will be carried on every time Jaden takes the ice as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
When Jaden was selected by the Blues in 2010, Mandi was seeking out a bone marrow transplant. These are the kind of bittersweet sports moments where one great thing occurs while another more tragic occurrence takes place somewhere else. Schwartz has since turned into a vital member of the Blues, scoring 25 goals in 2013-14 with a +/- rating of +28. Schwartz came into his own with the Blues and capped off a thrilling season when he tied Game 1 of the playoffs against the Blackhawks with barely any time left on the clock. I am sure when he did that, a small chunk of Jaden’s mind was sitting with the memory of his sister.
When I said the departure of Sobotka was bittersweet, I had no idea how that idea would carry on an entirely new meaning. With his departure, Schwartz gets to honor Mandi every time he puts on the uniform. For the 22 year old man, that will mean everything and it will give a lift to his family as well. More so than any sport, hockey teams come together as a family. They grit out brutal 82 game seasons that involve plenty of physicality, exhaustion, adversity and tolerance of less than stellar performances and in the process become closer. The Blues showed their true colors when they helped honor Mandi last season by practicing at Yale during an honorary event. Schwartz may have lost a sister in 2011, but he gained membership to a family when the Blues gave him his first chance later that following season where Jaden played in 7 games and scored a pair of goals.
While fans who have already purchased Schwartz jerseys with the #9 on the back will seem a bit disappointed at first, they will soon remember the golden rule of sports. It’s not about the number on the back of the jersey but the name sitting up top. Jaden Schwartz is the new owner of #17 and I hope he never gives it back.
Mandi Schwartz may have left the world at a very young age, but her legacy will shine bright every time Jaden hits the ice.
Thanks for reading,