Bray Ketchum (right) with Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues and former Yale teammate Aleca Hughes.
The last time NWHL fans saw Bray Ketchum on the ice she was hoisting the Isobel Cup over her head following the Metropolitan Riveters championship game win. That game was the last of Ketchum’s professional career. Last week we saw Ketchum near another hockey trophy, the NHL’s Stanley Cup, as she was in attendance for a few games of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston, including the Game 7 that crowned the St. Louis Blues as champions for the first time in their franchise's long history.
For the record, Ketchum is a New York Rangers fan but she has a deep connection to one of the Blues’ stars - Jaden Schwartz - that will last a lifetime. “When I was at Yale University, Mandi Schwartz was in the class ahead of mine,” explained Ketchum. “Her brother Jaden now plays for the St. Louis Blues. I played with her for a few seasons and when she got sick (with acute myeloid leukemia) she was on a line with myself and Aleca Hughes, who is the founder of the Mandi Schwartz Foundation.”
“When Mandi got sick we were in touch with the Schwartz family to keep tabs on her when she had gone home for treatments,” Ketchum said. “We continued to support her and tried to assist in finding a bone marrow match, which is why we started the annual Yale Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive in her honor. Since that, we launched the Mandi Schwartz Foundation, and the Schwartzes are also very involved in it and part of the board with us.”
Bray Ketchum and Aleca Hughes with Rick Schwartz, Jaden and Mandi's father.
Bray Ketchum and Aleca Hughes with Carol Schwartz, Jaden and Mandi's mother.
The savviest of hockey fans may be realizing right now that both Ketchum and Jaden wear the number 17. That’s no coincidence.
“Mandi wore no. 17 at Yale and when I had the opportunity to choose my number when I joined the Riveters I asked Rick and Carol (Mandi’s parents) if it would be okay if I wore her number in her honor and they couldn’t have been happier,” Ketchum recalled. “She was someone I thought about every day, especially every time I went out on the ice. It was pretty special to be able to wear that number and support her.”
Living not too far from Boston once the Blues advanced to the Final, Ketchum definitely wanted to be there to support Schwartz chasing his dream of winning the Stanley Cup.
“Rick, Carol, Aleca and I have been in touch during the entire NHL playoffs. Watching the Blues games from afar was very challenging and when it came to the Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Aleca lives there full time, so I told her I was coming up for Game 2 and she was fortunate enough to get tickets through a family friend. Prior to the game we got to see Mr. Schwartz who was also in town for that game.
“It was incredible. We haven’t seen them in a few years, and to be there with them to witness all that Jaden and the Blues have accomplished was special. We talked a lot about Mandi and how she never got to see Jaden play in the NHL. To win it all, and as he said in the postgame interview: ‘it was for her.'”
With a winner take all Game 7 happening back in Boston on June 12, Mandi’s parents and former linemates reunited once again and got to celebrate alongside Jaden, beaming with pride as he and his teammates got to the top of the NHL mountain.
“It was remarkable to be a part of. I got to go back for Game 7 and after the game, we were all hugging and crying. There was a lot of emotions but in the end, she was there with us in spirit. I was very fortunate to be a part of that and it’s something I’ll never forget,” Ketchum said.
“I’ve never gotten to be around the Stanley Cup! I’ve been to a few of [the Rangers] playoff games but I’ve never been a part of something like that. To be able to go to that game, in Boston, going down by the glass after the game, it was surreal. I’m so happy for the Schwartz family and the entire Blues organization.”
Anytime Mandi is brought up when talking to Ketchum you could sense how much she meant to her, and how proud she is to have been a friend to someone who was taken from her family and friends way too soon. But they honor her legacy every day whether it’s wearing her number or helping to prevent others from falling victim to such a cruel disease.
“The St. Louis Blues have done a lot to honor Mandi, as well as the stories we’ve seen about Laila Anderson. There was also a match found for this young woman named Reagan from a Blues marrow donor drive,” said Ketchum. “That organization has done an amazing job with their community getting people involved, and sharing these incredible stories.”
Bray Ketchum and Aleca Hughes with the Stanley Cup.
This upcoming season NWHL fans will see Ketchum again, just not on the ice unless there’s an alumni game. On April 30, the former Riveter scoring star was named the General Manager of the Connecticut Whale. So did she miss playing more or less than she anticipated last season?
“Definitely more! I miss it a lot. I miss my teammates, I miss the whole vibe of the NWHL, having game days and being a part of a team,” Ketchum said. “At the same time, it was great to go out on top as a champion. Now I’m back involved with the league in a different capacity as the GM of the Whale, which is great. I’ll always be involved in women’s hockey and it was a big step to move on from playing, but I’m glad to be back as a part of the NWHL community.”