La Russa is a hockey fan, following the cross-town Blues during the baseball season and the San Jose Sharks during the off-season. But he needed a primer on the proper technique before joining the Blues’ Dallas Drake and Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom at centre ice.
“I wasn’t sure,” La Russa said. “I said, ‘Do you drop it and they start skating all around you? How do you get out of there?”‘
La Russa received a prolonged ovation at the Scottrade Center, which was less than half-filled. The Cardinals sold out the entire first season at new Busch Stadium, but the Blues finished last overall in the NHL last season after the previous ownership stripped the roster to facilitate a sale.
After dropping the puck, he shook hands with several Blues behind the team bench.
La Russa was still basking in the glow of the championship, even though he said he didn’t get home until about 4 a.m. Saturday, after several hours of celebrating. On Sunday he gets to ride on the Anheuser-Busch beer wagon in the victory parade.
“I was telling somebody at the ballpark, I feel great and every hour it feels better,” La Russa said. “We’ll see when it stops.”
The ceremony was preceded by highlights from the Cardinals’ Game 5 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night, just a few blocks away, and the Cardinals logo was displayed on the jumbo scoreboard.
La Russa also visited the dressing room before the game and told players he hoped the Cardinals’ success would help the Blues beat another Detroit team.
“I just said what’s true a lot: One team does well, there’s a real good rub-off,” La Russa said. “I wished them a great season.”
The Blues have never won a Stanley Cup, and La Russa has empathy for that, too. He’s been managing for 28 years, and his only other World Series win was in 1989 with the Athletics.
“They’ve had really great years, just like we have,” La Russa said. “But when you get to the playoffs it’s such a crapshoot.
“You’ve just got to keep playing and one of the days you break through.”