Having both grown up in St. Louis and attended Chaminade College Prep, it seemed fitting that the first formal introduction of Paul Stastny and Chris Butler took place Monday at their old school.
The new St. Louis Blues players were surprise guests during an assembly in the school auditorium that included more than 800 students. During a presentation by Blues announcer Chris Kerber that featured coach Ken Hitchcock and general manager Doug Armstrong, the students got an extra bonus when treated to a visit from Stastny and Butler.
"When you're driving on Lindbergh and you pull in here, you just feel like home," said Stastny, a 28-year-old center who signed a four-year, $28 million deal to join the Blues after eight seasons in Colorado. "For four years, this is where I was constantly and it's human nature to feel comfortable here. That's the way I feel."
It was a feeling shared by Butler as well.
"This is pretty special," said the 27-year-old Butler, who played with Stastny at Chaminade and later at the University of Denver. "This is where Paul and I first met, I think it was playing summer hockey in junior high school. To come back where our friendship started... now it will be the third time we've played together.
"It's special to take a journey like we have. To have a friend that's been there for a good majority of it along the way is pretty neat."
Butler played for Calgary last season, signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues worth $650,000.
After making their way through the crowd of students, Stastny and Butler both were presented with Chaminade hockey jerseys and wore them on stage. In another surprise, Butler's father and former hockey coach, Doug Butler, came on stage and presented the players with their first Blues jerseys.
Students in the audience roared their approval as the players slipped on the Blues' jerseys, then all crowded toward the stage as the players took a giant "selfie" photo of the entire group.
Current Chaminade hockey players Ellis Burgett and Luke Radetic received Chaminade jerseys from Stastny and Butler, presenting the NHL players with school-logo gifts.
Blues owner Tom Stillman also attended the event, which included a special video targeted toward Stastny and Butler's hockey and educational past at the school.
As popular as Stastny is now, he remembered being in awe as a freshman when future NBA player David Lee was a senior basketball player for Chaminade.
"When you're so young, you're just having fun and you're looking up to guys," Stastny said.
Chaminade also produced current NBA standout Bradley Beal and is home to another basketball player considered among the best his age in the country in junior Jayson Tatum.
Stastny was born in St. Louis and is the son of former Blues player and Hockey Hall of Famer Peter Stastny and brother of another former Blues player, Yan Stastny.
Stastny is quite familiar with the St. Louis area and also has a good friend already here in Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from their days together with the Avalanche.
But for Stastny, who was married over the summer and is settling into a new home here, it's all about being comfortable.
Stastny had 25 goals and 60 points in 71 games last season with the Avalanche before leaving Colorado to sign with the Blues as a free agent.
"I'm not trying to impress anyone," he said. "I'm not here playing for you guys (in the media) or here playing for friends. I'm here playing for myself and my teammates, most importantly.
"I want to make the guys feel comfortable around me and I want to feel comfortable around them, try to find a chemistry with whoever I play with from day one."