NHL’s Blues to practice in Charleston

On Monday, the city of Charleston was named the top tourist destination in the United States for the third straight year by readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine.

What the magazine failed to mention is that Charleston is quickly becoming the city of choice for teams in the National Hockey League looking for a change of scenery during the season.

The NHL’s St. Louis Blues will visit the Lowcountry for three practices and some team building beginning Sunday morning.

The Blues will practice at the Carolina Ice Palace on Sunday (11 a.m. to noon); Monday (11 a.m. to noon); and Tuesday (9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.). All practices are open to the public.

The Blues are 4-0-0 and considered a legitimate contender for this year’s Stanley Cup.

This is the second time in the last five years an NHL team has come to Charleston during the season. In 2008, the Phoenix Coyotes, with Hall of Fame coach Wayne Gretzky, spent two days in the Lowcountry.

“I guess the word is getting out about Charleston,” said South Carolina Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery. “It’s exciting to have an NHL team in town. It doesn’t happen very often, although I think the secret is getting out. We’ve got a great practice rink at the Ice Palace and the city of Charleston speaks for itself at the No. 1 tourist destination in the country. I know the Coyotes really enjoyed their time here when they were in town.”

The Blues will face Chicago (Thursday) and Winnipeg (Friday) on the road and have a week off before facing Vancouver at home on Oct. 25.

South Carolina Stingrays president Rob Concannon got a call from the Blues organization more than a month ago about the possibility of the NHL team using the Stingrays’ practice facility. Concannon thinks the idea for the Blues to practice in Charleston originated with former Stingrays head coach Jared Bednar. Bednar was the head coach for the Peoria Rivermen, St. Louis’ American Hockey League affiliate, from 2010-12.

“I haven’t talked with Jared, but I’ve got to believe that this started with him,” Concannon said. “Obviously, we’re excited to have the Blues here and everyone is looking forward to seeing them on the ice.”

Carbery and St. Louis forward Adam Cracknell are both from Victoria, British Columbia.

“We used to skate together during the summers when I was still playing,” Carbery said. “I’ve known Adam for a long time. It’ll be good to see him again.”

The Stingrays, who open the season on the road Saturday against the Reading Royals, won’t have to share the ice with the Blues.

“There won’t be any overlap with the ice,” Carbery said. “We get back about 7 a.m. on Monday and have the rest of the day off. Then we’ve got a team building exercise on Tuesday. I’ll probably stop by Monday to watch them practice.”

Follow Andrew Miller’s South Carolina Stingrays coverage on Twitter at @APMILLER_PandC.