Off the Cuff with Claibrone: Craig Berube
As a professional hockey player, Craig Berube played for teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Washington Capitals. For St. Louisans, however, his career highlights come with his time coaching for the Blues. As interim coach in 2019, he led our beloved team to a Stanley Cup title—the second interim coach in NHL history to do so.
How much has coaching changed from when you first started as player?
Back in the day, it was more just go out and play, and coaches had certain philosophies of how their team approached the game. Today, there is still a philosophy for every coach, but it’s also about positioning so every play has a structure. Players and coaches are always looking at video and finding new things all the time. It’s an all day job.
Best advice you ever received as a player and a coach?
You have got to play to your strengths and accept who you are. I learned that in my first year playing pro. Coming out of junior hockey, I scored 30 goals my last year, so I thought I could play. John Paddock, my coach in the minors, grabbed me and said, “Look, this is what you’re going to need to do to play in the NHL. If you don’t, you’re probably not going to play very long.”
This was a big off-season for you; you got married.
That came later in the off-season, so I still had a couple of months of single life. We had a great wedding. My wife and I have been together for seven years, and I’m very fortunate to have her.
You also played golf with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Ozzie Smith recently.
I was nervous the day before the event, but those guys were unbelievable. They really made things easy for me and helped me relax. I was a huge Cardinals fan in the ’80s, so I watched Ozzie growing up. It was a thrill to meet him. What a nice guy.
Do you have an eye for fashion or is someone else responsible for the Craig Berube ensemble?
My wife is a fashion designer, so she is very knowledgeable in that area and makes sure I’m dialed in. I buy a lot of my clothes here in town from Bespoke. David Corbitt has taken good care of me.
What old trend are you happy hasn’t made a comeback?
The mullet. I had one in the ’80s and thought it looked pretty cool. Now, when I see those pictures, I wonder what I was thinking.
What’s your go-to beverage after a game?
Hockey players can be very superstitious. What about coaches?
They can be, for sure. I don’t call it superstitious. For me, it’s routine.
Have you picked up any hobbies as you’ve gotten older?
I enjoy golf more as a hobby. Golf is golf; you’re going to play some good games and some bad games. For me, it’s about coming together with the guys. It’s more about camaraderie and having fun.
Other than winning, what do you still get a kick out of in hockey?
The camaraderie. When I was done playing, I knew I wanted to coach. I didn’t want to leave this locker room. I would miss it, and when I’m not doing it in the summertime, I still miss it because I love being involved in a team.
Are you a good cook?
I’m a decent cook. I’ve learned a lot from my wife; she’s Italian and a great cook. I’ve learned different things. I like to barbecue, and I’ve developed a little more skill at making sauces and things like that. I’m a good breakfast cook, too.
What’s the one dish that you are most proud of?
I think my ribs are pretty good. I know the kids love then.
Give me four places in St. Louis you like to go for dinner.
Paul Manno’s, Pappy’s, Capital Grill and Dominic’s on the Hill
Beach or mountains?
Beach more now, but mountains for sure when I was young. Living up in Canada, I was about three hours from the mountains, and I used to ski. Living in Philly, I’m only an hour and a half from the Jersey Shore, so I’ve become more of a beach person.
Other than coaching the Blues, what attracted you to St. Louis?
More than anything, the people. I love the people in this town. St. Louis also may be the best sports town in the U.S. The people in this town make this town.
What do you want to tell Blues fans about the upcoming season?
I’m excited. We’ve added Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad. Saad is a proven winner; and Buchnevich is an up-and-coming player who played really well in New York for the Rangers.