January 25, 2023

How a St. Louis Blues Hockey Stick Became a Holy Relic [PHOTOS]

During a visit to St Louis in 1999, the St. Louis Blues gave Pope John Paul II a hockey stick signed by the entire team.
During a visit to St Louis in 1999, the St. Louis Blues gave Pope John Paul II a hockey stick signed by the entire team.
January 26 marks the 24th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s pilgrimage to St. Louis, and to this day whenever his visit is mentioned, locals-of-a-certain-age share what they remember about “when the pope came to town.” Whether it was the city closing off its streets for the Popemobile or the more than 104,000 attendees packed at the former TWA dome to see him, much is ingrained in St. Louis’ memory regarding the pope’s 31-hour sojourn.

Hockey fans may recall the Pope receiving a St. Louis Blues hockey stick signed by the entire 1999-2000 roster during a mass held by his Holiness. Upon receiving his gift, JP2 gave the hockey stick a swing that would give former Blues player Chris Pronger a run for his money, resulting in massive applause from the audience.

See also: More about that hockey stick moment — and an RFT editor's personal connection to the story

John Paul II was canonized as a saint in 2013, turning the papal hockey stick a holy relic. Now, it is held within a vault at the Office of Archives and Records in the Cardinal Rigali Center on the grounds of the Archdiocese of St. Louis campus.

“Yeah, this might be the only relic with Al Macinnis’ autograph,” says Brecht Mulvihill, the executive director of communications for the archdiocese.

“The mission of The Office of the Archives is to collect, preserve and make available historic permanent records and artifacts from the archdiocese itself, and to keep these items as long as possible” adds Eric Fair, the director of archives.

The office contains two climate controlled vaults with their own fire suppression systems. Artifacts housed here include the death mask of Cardinal John Joseph Glennon and a contract with Prairie du Rocher dating back to 1774.

So how did the hockey stick end up here?

“The origin of the stick began when the St. Louis Blues found out that the Holy Father was hosting a youth rally at the Kiel Center, where they played.” Fair says. “They decided to sign a commemorative souvenir stick for him, and it was then presented to the Holy Father. The pope was actually an athlete as a young man, and even played hockey!” But the hockey stick did not return to the Vatican with him.

“The hockey stick actually stayed in St. Louis after his visit,” Fair says. “When the Holy Father visits a site, there tends to be a lot of different things given to him from the local population. He will take some artifacts back to the Vatican with him, but he will also leave what he believes is important to the native area. The hockey stick was then on display in the archbishop's residence for a while, but we transferred it to the archives to make sure it was in a safe space.”

The hockey stick became a relic in 2013 after the Pope’s induction into sainthood. Fair explains the process: “When someone is deemed worthy of canonization, at that point anything that is associated with [that person] can be considered a relic. There are certain levels and certain degrees. Anything that was a part of them — a piece of skin, a corpus of that person — that would be considered a first-degree relic. Those are the types of things you see in Catholic churches on top of altars for veneration. Anything that a particular saint used or owned can be considered second-degree relics. There is actually a third-degree relic, and that is something that either touched the saint or touched a first-degree relic.”

Although the Blues could use some help from the divine hockey stick every now and again, the relic will remain safely in the vault. Still, the hockey stick is a unique reminder of the pope’s visit, and it is a relic that is very, very St. Louis. “One last thing,” Fair says before parting ways, “Let’s Go Blues!”

Coming soon: Riverfront Times Daily newsletter. We’ll send you a handful of interesting St. Louis stories every morning. Subscribe now to not miss a thing.

Follow us: Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter
Scroll down to view images
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
The archidocese keeps the hockey stick holy relic in its Office or Archives and Records.
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
The office is in the Cardinal Rigali Center on the Archdiocese of St. Louis campus.
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
The office contains many historical artifacts including centuries old contracts and papers.
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
The entire roster for the 1999-2000 St. Louis Blues signed the hockey stick.
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
REUBEN HEMMER
Reuben Hemmer
REUBEN HEMMER
Cardinal Rigali's death mask.