Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo opens up about loss in Players’ Tribune

St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo celebrates after scoring as Colorado Avalanche's Nikita Zadorov, of Russia, skates in the background during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in St. Louis. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

As hockey fans, it can be easy to forget that the players we’re watching—cheering, jeering, betting on and against—are just people with their own set of worries and obstacles, joys and sorrows.

While we dissect every play on the ice, we don’t often talk much about the personal stuff away from the rink.

St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo is helping change that with a thoughtful piece in The Players’ Tribune, which was published on Monday.

In the article, called There’s a Place You Can Go, Pietrangelo opens up about some of the heartache he has experienced throughout his life—the death of his childhood friend, Cosmo; the emotional journey of supporting his young niece, Ellie, through cancer treatments and recovery; the sudden passing of a good friend and coach, Tyler Cragg; and, just last year, the loss of his own child due to complications with pregnancy.

“Gabriel Pietrangelo was due in December, right before the holidays,” Pietrangelo wrote. “In June, we lost our son due to complications with the pregnancy.”

Pietrangelo wrote about the isolation he and his wife, Jayne, felt throughout the grieving process.

“How do you begin to explain what you’re going through? The single greatest thing we’ve ever been given was taken away from us, just like that,” he wrote.

By opening up about it now, the couple hopes their story will help others know they’re not alone.

“There hasn’t been a single day that I have not thought about Gabriel, or shed a tear for him,” Pietrangelo wrote. “Going through that process of grief and having to try to suit up again for a new season, I’m not going to lie … it was very, very difficult to cope. But when we started sharing our story with other people who had lost children during pregnancy, we realized that they struggled with the same feelings. There’s no easy or correct way to deal with it. There’s no playbook. The pain is always there for us, and it always will be. But in telling our story, we hope to honor Gabriel, and to let people understand that they’re not alone in what they’re going through.”

And throughout it all, there’s hockey. Just as sport is a welcome distraction from everyday life for fans, it serves a similar role when players are hurting, too.

“I’ve experienced quite a lot of loss in my life, but the one thing that I’m really grateful for is that the game of hockey gives me an escape,” he wrote. “It gives me an opportunity to get away from my thoughts for a few hours a day and just concentrate on a game. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes it’s still in the back of my mind. I’m always thinking about my wife now, even when I’m at the rink. But her strength in such tough times gives me strength, and I know that I’ve got a whole support system around me in St. Louis. We’re so grateful to be surrounded by so many great teammates and friends and family here, who have had our backs in an extremely difficult time.”

Read the piece in its entirety here.

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