In the last decade the Blues have held several team-bonding activities. In Calgary a few years back coaches canceled practice and told the players to go see a movie together.

Some players yawned during the film but were sighing more because the theater was not their choice of places to hang out.

Beginning last season the Blues began taking a new approach to building off-ice relationships. Last March the club took advantage of a game in Vancouver to work in a trip to a ski resort. This season with a week off following Friday’s game in Winnipeg the team flew to Charleston S.C. for a few days of R & R.

But what’s even more appealing for the Blues than the destinations is the fact that general manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock are allowing the players to arrange their own agenda.

Yes the Blues will be on the ice Sunday Monday and Tuesday before returning to St. Louis but outside of the couple of hours at the rink the free time is exactly that — free time. Some golfed on Saturday and others have plans to go out on a fishing boat.

“It comes from a place of authenticity when it’s derived from our own desires to hang out with the group” Blues captain David Backes said. “When it’s forced when you’ve got to do something yeah you’re spending time together and you might get something out of it. But not as much as when you really want to do things as a group … and really make that bond special off the ice.”

The brainstorming for this year’s trip began several months ago. The Blues were looking for a warm-weather climate where players could participate in outdoor activities. The team chose Charleston an historic city with a population of approximately 125000.

The Blues flew 3½ hours from Winnipeg to get here landing around 5 a.m. Eastern time Saturday. They awoke to 80 degrees and hundreds of sightseers and shoppers in the quaint community. Not far from the team hotel the Farmers Market featured southern BBQ ice-cold lemonade and soothing music.

“It’s nice to get away and keeping the guys together for four or five days is important for us at this time of the year” Armstrong said. “We talked to the leadership group about setting the schedule. We obviously have to get some work done but we want them to enjoy themselves. They’ll have a lot of free time to do things that will hopefully bring them together.