The two most
important things in life: family and hockey. At least that is the answer
Rivermen rookie Phil McRae would give.
And to McRae,
those two things coincide in more than just a couple of ways.
Ever since the
20-year-old center can remember, he has had just one dream: to play
professional hockey. Although he shared that dream with hundreds of thousands
of other youngsters at the time, McRae had an advantage.
“I pretty much
grew up in the rink,” said McRae of his childhood.
The son of
former St. Louis Blues’ enforcer Basil McRae, Phil had a unique connection to
the game at a very young age.
“Growing up, it
was always a huge advantage because I would get to hang out in NHL locker rooms
and around NHL players and get to see what the lifestyle is like,” said McRae.
played in parts of 16 professional seasons including 576 NHL games, 112 of
which were with St. Louis, and even two games with the Peoria Rivermen (IHL)
during the 1994-95 season. Perhaps his “claim to fame” however comes from his cameo
appearance with then-teammate Mike Modano in the 1992 release of “The Mighty
cool,” said McRae on seeing his father in the film. “He always tells kids he
not only played in the NHL, he’s a movie star too.”
Phil was born
in Apple Valley, Minn. two years prior to film’s release, while his father
played for the Minnesota North Stars. As Basil moved from team to team, Phil
and the family stayed right alongside him until they settled in St. Louis where
Basil all but finished his career.
found a home in Chesterfield, MO, about 25 miles west of St. Louis. At just
three years old, Phil became immersed in Blues’ hockey and this is where his
own career would begin.
“I started out
playing for the [Chesterfield] Falcons, STL Elite, and then the Triple-A Blues,
so I went through the whole St. Louis system,” said McRae. “The whole time, my
dad was always there giving me hints and letting me know what I can do better.”
Aside from the
family background, McRae had the talent and determination to advance to the
next level. At just 16 years old, he joined the Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
where he played four seasons with the Plymouth Whalers and the London Knights,
a team in which his father is currently a part-owner.
span, McRae appeared in 283 games amassing 192 points (76g, 116a) and 242
penalty minutes while helping to capture the 2006-07 OHL regular season
championship with London.
biggest “thrill” however would come during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa,
Ontario. The youngster from Chesterfield was drafted in the second round, 33rd
overall by the team he grew up rooting for.
“I think any
kid dreams of playing for their hometown team,” said McRae. “Just growing up in
St. Louis, I was a Blues’ fan my entire life. If there was a team I could have
been drafted to, I was definitely thrilled that the Blues picked me.”
was ecstatic that he was selected by St. Louis while only a teenager, he calls
the experience a “stepping stone”.
days are still ahead in order to get to the next level."
days ahead were made a little easier this past summer however. McRae was
fortunate enough to live with Blues’ great Keith Tkachuk and his family in
preparation for his upcoming first professional hockey season.
“It was really
neat to live with [Keith] and see how he prepared and how much he would do for
games and stuff,” said McRae. “He would always give me advice and it was really
cool to see what he had to say.”
Now, Phil is
out to make a name for himself and jump to that next level.
He has not
disappointed early in his rookie campaign either. After being assigned to AHL
Peoria following Blues’ training camp, McRae leads the Rivermen in goals (11)
and is third on the team in points (22) through 32 games.
And although he
is happy about where he currently stands and where he came from, McRae is even
more excited about the future.
“I like to be
proud of the fact that I played in St. Louis,” said McRae reflecting on his
younger days. “I went through the whole St. Louis system, but there’s still one
A step that teammate
Ben Bishop, who also played through the entire St. Louis minor hockey system,
took just over two years ago when making his NHL debut. A step that McRae may
reach sooner rather than later in his promising young career.
By: Alan Fuehring