“It was pretty tense, and then St. Louis scored one and we were a little more relaxed,” Marge Wonitowy said of Stanley Cup Game 7 where her grandson Jaden Schwartz was playing with the St. Louis Blues.
Wonitowy was at home in Kamsack watching the game with her son Allan and Leanne Green.
“After the Blues scored their second goal, I became confident that they’d win,” Marge said last week as she talked about the win. “But Allan said ‘no, just wait.’
“We had a bottle of champagne and he didn’t want me to open it yet.
“After the third goal, Allan said ‘pop that champagne. They’re going to win this game.’”
He was right. The Blues defeated the Boston Bruins 4 to 1, marking the team’s first Stanley Cup championship in 52 years.
Marge said that after the game they took their glasses of champagne to Riverview Cemetery to have a celebratory toast at the grave of her husband Paul who had died in 2009 and was a great hockey fan.
“Dad would have been so happy; he would have been bragging to all his friends,” Cheryl said.
They then went to Cheryl and Murray’s place to continue the celebration.
“We had been confident the Blues would have won Game 6 in St. Louis,” Cheryl said, explaining that she, her husband Murray Hunter and Marge had hoped the Blues would have won the Stanley Cup at Game 6 in St. Louis.
They had driven 22 hours to get to St. Louis for the game on June 9, but it was not to be. Boston had defeated the Blues 5 to 1 and the three of them returned home to watch the final game on TV.
“In St. Louis, we had passes to go onto the ice, but the team lost,” Cheryl said.
“Jaden said, ‘we’ll get the next one’,” Cheryl said, explaining that he had been “a little upset” over the loss.
“Jaden didn’t say much in the car on our drive home after the game,” she said. “He tried so hard. He really had wanted to win.
“He had said that the team didn’t come up with the game they had planned.”
That wasn’t the only playoff game that Marge had seen live. She was in Winnipeg for a game and then saw four games in the Dallas-St. Louis series.
“You should have seen the city of St. Louis,” Cheryl said. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. The media, there were buses full of media equipment; the excitement; the Blues store had to close because they ran out of stock.”
Cheryl explained how the Village Ballpark where the St. Louis Cardinals play had been “solid packed” with fans for the Blues’ game which was carried on 25 outdoor TVs.
“There were tailgate parties everywhere, and people drinking on the streets,” she said. “Everyone was wearing Blues’ jerseys.”
Marge said she had gotten a kick out of an incident during a recent trip to Las Vegas where she had gone into a bathroom and overheard a couple girls talking about Jaden and they told her that they “loved” him.
“So do I. He’s my grandson,” Marge had said. “They took pictures of me with them.”
“In St. Louis, it was exciting being in the family room where we could meet all the other players,” Cheryl said, boasting that she had been kissed on the cheek by Jordan Binnington, the St. Louis’ goalie. “All the players’ families got together.”
Cheryl was also impressed with the cost of seats for the playoff games.
“Our seats were $1,800 each,” she said, gesturing with her hand that the seats were not at ice level, but higher-up. “Some of the seats went at $7,500, and they were sold out. It’s crazy.”
Jaden, who celebrated his 27th birthday on June 25, is the son of former Kamsack and Runnymede residents Rick and Carol (nee Wonitowy) Schwartz. He was born in Melfort and has an older brother Rylan, who for a third year is playing hockey in Germany. His older sister, Mandy, who was also a well-known hockey player, died of leukemia in 2011.
Jaden has been playing hockey since he was three, Marge said.
The family says he was born with a hockey stick, Cheryl said.
At four years of age, Jaden was on the ice with the Melfort Mustangs and his uncle Allan had told him that if he scored any goals that year he’d give him $100 a goal, Marge said, laughing. “He scored 17 goals that year!”
“He loves hockey,” Marge said. “He was inspired by his older sister and got a lot of support from his parents, who devoted much time to sports, mainly hockey. The kids were playing hockey winter and summer.
“I was amazed that the Blues made it to the playoffs,” Marge said. “They were at the bottom of the league in January, but then things turned around.”
She said a new goalie was a big help; the team got a different coach, and some rookies were brought up.
“A positive attitude helped,” she said.
“Maybe Mandy looking down did it,” Cheryl said. “For sure, Mandy is Jaden’s lucky angel.”
With three players from Saskatchewan, the Stanley Cup will be coming to Saskatchewan, but if it comes to Kamsack is not known.
His grandmother expects Jaden will be visiting his family in Kamsack and Runnymede and if it is like other years, he’ll probably be here in August.
“During the summers, Jaden and his brother visit with friends in Colorado Springs where they played college hockey,” Marge said. “He’ll probably spend the summer golfing with friends.”
“He loves golf almost as much as hockey,” Cheryl added.
“And then he’ll be back on the ice by September,” Marge said.
The 2011-12 season was a monumental one for Schwartz, said his biography. Playing his sophomore NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) season alongside older brother Rylan, Schwartz finished as Colorado College's scoring leader with 41 points (15 goals) in 30 games. He also was captain of Canada at the 2012 IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Junior Championship, where he had two goals and five points in six games and won a bronze medal.
On March 12, 2012, Schwartz signed an entry-level contract with the St. Louis Blues, who had selected him in the first round (No. 14) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He played seven games for the Blues late in 2011-12, scoring a power-play goal in his NHL debut March 17, 2012, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and scoring again in his second game, March 21 against the Anaheim Ducks.
After splitting the 2012-13 season between the Blues and Peoria of the American Hockey League, Schwartz made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut April 30, 2013, against the Los Angeles Kings, the biography said. He had back-to-back 20-goal seasons with the Blues in 2013-14 (25) and 2014-15 (28).
An ankle injury kept Schwartz out for 49 games in 2015-16, but he returned to score 18 points in his last 26 regular-season games. In the playoffs he had points in six consecutive games and a three-game goal streak, finishing with four goals and 14 points in 20 games, helping St. Louis reach the Western Conference Final.
Schwartz had a big role in the Blues' Western Conference First Round win against the Winnipeg Jets in 2019; he scored all three goals in a 3-2 series-clinching victory in Game 6.
An explosive skater, Schwartz was a dominant force with Notre Dame of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, where he had 34 goals and 76 points in 46 games in 2008-09. He played for Canada at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, getting a goal and an assist in a 9-2 win against Russia in the gold-medal game.
Schwartz led the United States Hockey League with 83 points (33 goals) in 2009-10 with Tri-City and was named the USHL Offensive Player of the Year. He had a team-high 47 points in 30 games for Colorado College in 2010-11, leading freshmen nationally with 1.57 points per game, and won a silver medal with Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship, though his tournament was cut short because of a broken ankle.