“Hey, how’s it going, T.J.? Welcome back!” one teenage boy exclaimed at the Washington Capitals winger.
The St. Louis Blues selected Oshie with the 24th pick of the 2005 draft, and he played seven seasons for them before being traded to the Capitals on July 2, 2015. And while Oshie has returned to face the Blues multiple times since he was traded, Oshie and his family are back in St. Louis this weekend for the 33-year-old’s first NHL All-Star Game. He was Washington’s candidate on the ballot for the “Last Men In” fan vote.
“[It] is a pretty cool story to be able to tell my kids when they are older and my grandkids after that,” Oshie said about returning to a city where fans still don his No. 74 Blues jersey and applaud his appearances at public events.
St. Louis still loves Oshie, and Oshie still loves it. He can rattle off his top five places to go in St. Louis: O.B. Clark’s, Tani Sushi Bistro, Paul Manno’s Cafe, Dominic’s and, at the very top of the list, former teammate Barret Jackman’s house (specifically his garage, nicknamed the “Doghouse”).
“Yeah, it’s pretty surreal,” Oshie said of his return to St. Louis. “And I think it is a pretty special feeling to come back to a place where I haven’t been in a while. I’ve won a Cup in another city, [the Blues] have won a Cup with a new team, plenty of chances to get new jerseys, and there are plenty of number 74 Oshie jerseys out there.”
Oshie has 20 tickets for Saturday night’s All-Star Game at Enterprise Center. In attendance will be his wife, Lauren; his two daughters, Lyla (5) and Leni (3); his agents; some close family friends; some friends of his daughters; and his dad, Tim, who is known as “Coach Osh.”
Oshie’s father has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease since 2012. He was diagnosed when he was just 50 years old.
“My dad, he came [to St. Louis] quite a bit when I came here and made a lot of good friends,” Oshie said. “Everyone at the rink knows Coach Osh, probably more than they know me. So he’s going to be making it back for this trip, and that is going to be pretty special for us and for him, with it being hard for him to travel these days. But we didn’t want him to miss this one.”
The elder Oshie was unable to make the Capitals’ annual dads and mentors trip this season; Oshie’s father-in-law, Dave Cosgrove, accompanied Oshie instead. However, the group didn’t forget about him. During the Capitals’ December road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the dads FaceTimed him to express their love and support.
“It is always more special when Coach Osh is in the crowd,” Oshie said. “It’s important to me and to the family that he is here to see me go out there and put on an all-star jersey and just see … through these milestones that I’ve made in my career, that all his hard work and just being a great dad has paid off.”
Growing up, Oshie and his dad would talk about important milestones in terms of “When you play in the All-Star Game” or “When you play in the Olympics.” Oshie flourished doing the latter; now it’s time for a more laid-back yet meaningful achievement.
St. Louis holds a lot of memories for the family. It’s where T.J. and Lauren moved into their first house together and where Lyla was born in 2014. This will be the first time Oshie’s daughters will watch him play in St. Louis. The trip is the first time Lyla has been back to St. Louis since her father was traded.
And the return brings back a rush of mostly good but also emotional moments for the family.
Lyla was born with gastroschisis — her intestines were on the outside of her body — and she had to have surgery immediately after birth. Oshie spent hours at the pediatric care unit at St. Louis Children’s Hospital with Lyla and Lauren, often staying the night before heading to practice. After Oshie made headlines at the Sochi Olympics for his shootout heroics in the United States’ victory over Russia, the family made an appearance on the “Today" show that spring to address baby Lyla’s condition.
Upon returning, the Oshies intended to show the girls the house where “mom and dad first moved in together” and, perhaps more importantly, “the first house that we had when we first brought her back.” They also planned on going to the aquarium and the kids’ museum.
“I’m not sure if [Leni] understands really yet that this is where we lived before, but Lyla is kind of understanding it and is trying to coach her on the fact that she was born here,” Oshie said with a smile. “It is pretty cool coming back and to have her come with me.”
The couple are expecting another child soon — this time a boy.
Playing in the All-Star Game with Matthew and Brady Tkachuk brings back more happy memories for Oshie, who played with their father, Keith, in St. Louis. Oshie vividly recalls Matthew and Brady running around the dressing room, playing ball hockey, and remembers thinking it was cool that they would know their dad played in the NHL.
He hopes Lyla and Leni will remember the same thing.
“If I am able to play out my contract, Lyla will be 11, and so I think when it is all said and done I think they will both know that their dad played in the NHL, which means a lot to me that they remember that,” Oshie said. “It is pretty cool for me that they are able to come and share this weekend with us, and I just hope they remember it.”
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