Andrew Dvorak didn’t think it could get any better than a span in 2017 when he was awarded the Kansas City Mavericks Lifetime Achievement Award, was named by his peers the ECHL Equipment Manager of the Year and worked his 1,000th professional hockey game.
But on this day, that all pales in comparison as the popular former Mavericks equipment manager is part of the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
After being a part of every Mavericks game for eight seasons, Dvorak accepted a job as equipment assistant with the Blues following the Mavericks’ 2017 season.
“This is so surreal, It’s just amazing,” Dvorak said after the joyous plane ride home from Boston, where the never-day-die Blues topped the favored Bruins 4-1 behind rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington to take the series 4-3.
“As the game went on, all the guys on the equipment staff had to keep it together and make sure we got home with everything – gloves, helmets sticks, all that stuff. Because, if you saw the end of the game, those things were thrown everywhere. It was so cool.
“But we were like, ‘We’ve got work to do,’ as we went back and forth from the bench to the locker room around all the NHL’s security people. It was pretty crazy, but it was so much fun.”
What made it even more special for all the Blues was the moment Laila Anderson, 11, a Blues super fan who is battling a life-threatening autoimmune disease that only a handful of other children in the world have, was handed the Stanley Cup by Colton Parayko after the emotional win in Boston.
“Now don’t get me crying,” Dvorak said. “Talk about a cool story. Before she was sick, she would be at games behind our bench. Then she got sick, and the guys and the organization wanted to make sure she and her mom were with us for Game 7. She was our inspiration.”
Dvorak is light years away from the days where he would pack, and unpack every player’s apartment before the start of a CHL or ECHL season, drive a van and trailer full of equipment to Rapid City, S.D., or Allen, Texas, or spend the night in an opposing locker room, unpacking gear and hanging it neatly in a locker for the next road game.
“What’s so great about our equipment staff and the Blues organization is that it has that family feel, just like the Mavericks had for eight years,” said Dvorak, who also spent time with the United Hockey League’s Richmond RiverDogs and Southern Professional Hockey League’s Richmond Renegades, along with the Miami Manatees of the WHA2 and ACHL’s Jacksonville Barracudas. “I got to take (wife) Shannon to Boston to experience Game 7 and that was amazing for our family. Owen (age 5) stayed home, he’s just too young to be a part of all the craziness of a Game 7 on the road, but he was a big part of the playoffs.
“He’s a superstitious little kid. He’d wear his underwear or his Blues jersey backwards, depending on if we won or lost. He knew what happened every game. He loves the Blues, just like he loved the Mavericks.”
But he carries his love of the Mavericks over to his favorite Blues player, former Mavericks goalie Ville Husso, who served as the third stringer behind Binnington and Jake Allen this season and spent some time on the NHL roster.
“You remember when we were in Independence, he always loved wearing his goalie gear to games and he loves Ville,” Dvorak said, chuckling. “I had him at a practice and our captain Alex Pietrangelo skates over to him and asks him who his favorite player is.
“And Owen said, Ville!’ I thought Alex was going to die laughing. Every other kid in St. Louis would have said him, or one of the other big stars, and Owen’s favorite is Ville.
“But it’s so cool to share with Ville – two guys who were with the Mavericks, getting to hoist the Cup. It doesn’t get much better than that.”