Zach Sanford’s story hit very close to my heart back in 2018 when his dad passed away before the start of the St. Louis Blues’ 2018-19 season. The toughest part of that no doubt was that Sanford wasn’t there when it happened, and this I know, because when my dad died, I wasn’t there. His dad was 54, mine was 56. What they had in common was that they both loved hockey.
When Sanford scored the last goal in the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins at the end of the 2018-19 season, what I remember most was David Perron hugging Sanford after he scored. Now, of course, Perron was the one who passed it over to him, before he put it in the net, so I understand his joy. For me, though I immediately thought how Sanford must have thought about his dad and how happy he would have been. How bittersweet it must have been, particularly since Sanford and his family were Boston Bruins fans.
Looking back though, who knew how much his life would change back in February of 2017 when he was traded by the Washington Capitals to St. Louis, along with a first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and goalie Pheonix Copley. I know I, like most of St. Louis, I think, was sad to see Shattenkirk leave. To many, he was one of the team leaders. At the time, I would also be willing to make a hefty wager that most of St. Louis had no idea who Sanford was but by the end of the Blues miraculous run for the Stanley Cup at the end of the 2018-19 season, we all knew about him.
Where It All Began
Sanford was born in Salem, Massachusetts but his family later moved to Manchester, New Hampshire, about an hour north of Boston. So naturally, they were Bruins fans. For Sanford, his hockey career began to blossom while in New Hampshire when he helped lead Pinkerton Academy to a Division 1 state title with 36 goals and 69 points during the 2011–12 season along with earning the honor of New Hampshire High School Player of the Year.
After a year of junior hockey, he was drafted 61st overall by the Washington Capitals in 2013. Washington actually thought enough of him that year to trade the Winnipeg Jets three draft picks, just to move up to get him. Sanford played another year of junior hockey after that, and two years at Boston College before turning pro.
During the same 2016-17 season in which Sanford signed his entry-level deal and made his debut with the Capitals, the Blues acquired him and sent him to their top minor league affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, before he eventually got the chance to play in St. Louis, where he managed to score 2 goals and 3 assists in 13 games.
Meet Me in St. Louis
After spending the following year with the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, Sanford’s chance to stick with the NHL club finally happened with the 2018-19 season as he had 8 goals along with 3 assists during the regular season before adding a goal and three assists during the Stanley Cup run, with his goal providing the final margin in Game 7 of the Final.
Going into this season, Sanford’s future looked bright. In the 58 games he played in 2019-20, he had 16 goals and 14 assists, both career highs. In fact, in one game against the Vegas Golden Knights back in February, he got a hat trick, scoring four goals in all.
Sanford’s game really seems to be taking off and while his dad may have never gotten the chance to see him play a game in the NHL, I have no doubt, he’s incredibly proud.