O’FALLON, Mo. (KMOX) – Walk downstairs in Dennis Minner’s O’Fallon home and you’ve suddenly made it to 1401 Clark Ave. There are a couple blue lines, goal creases and the illuminated St. Louis Blues jerseys of forwards Steve Ott and Kyle Brodziak — the man cave suppliers.
Minner says the dream of a Blues man cave was sparked at the sight of an unfinished basement when he and his wife bought the home a few years ago. With indifference from the Mrs., the plans for “Minner Arena” were laid out.
A nextdoor neighbor, who is a carpenter, was in need of a wedding photographer this coming November for his daughter’s ceremony. Minner operates his own photography studio on the side of his full-time work. The hobby, he says, has basically paid for his entire Blues sanctuary.
In trade for Minner’s services, his neighbor constructed the to-scale hockey boards and swinging doors to match the Scottrade Center benches, which was just the first of many benefits for the willing photographer.
Dennis Minner Photography is a compilation of Minner’s fine art and portrait style pictures. He has traveled around the US to buildings that have been abandoned, sometimes due to the unspeakable acts that transpired there, but found a comfort in the now peaceful scenery.
One day he received a particularly special follow on Instagram. It was the account of his favorite Blues player’s wife, Erica Ott.
Minner, a Blues season ticket holder, later saw the forward’s wife at a game and used her interest in his craft as an ice breaker, and eventually offered his services.
Then a family portrait of the Ott’s with their two children was scheduled.
“That first time going to see one of the players, my wife reminded me,” Minner says. “She goes, ‘You’re the professional that they are coming to’ and I was like ‘that’s a good point.'”
Minner kept his star struck urges smothered between each click of his lens, and captured the Ott’s well enough that word of his talent spread through the Blues locker room.
He has since taken photos for the Brodziak family, David Backes and events at his foundation “Athletes for Animals.” Each shoot coming with a caveat.
“Instead of me charging them something, it just made sense for me to ask for something that I liked,” Minner says. “So I would ask for autographed jerseys and autographed sticks and that’s kind of where it went.”
His business relationship with the Ott’s continued for a second shoot, with payment in the form of hockey sticks for Minner to create a coffee table as the center piece of his basement. But Minner was taken aback when Ott presented a bundle of brand new sticks, marked with the signatures of Blues like Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo and Paul Stastny.
He said cutting up those hockey sticks, which he knew to be worth hundreds of dollars, nearly brought him to tears.
“I try not to think about how much I have or how much I’ve spent,” Minner says. “And I won’t want my wife to know that either.”
Minner’s project began in January of this year and was completed in mid-July. When the basement was just starting to show its promise, Minner knew Ott had to see what his efforts had helped to create. The photographer-subject relationship had grown to a mutual friendship. Enough so, Minner says he was invited to Ott’s son’s 1st birthday party.
Surrounded by most of the Blues 2015-16 roster and their families, Minner decided to reveal his finished basement to Ott.
“And (Ott) started taking the photos around to some of the other players,” Minner says. “And I remember (Alexander) Steen and (Alex) Pietrangelo and some of those guys were like ‘that’s crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it.'”
Since then, two of Minner’s Blues connections have departed to new teams in the offseason with Ott headed to Detroit and Backes to Boston. Although he says he’s working on future shoots with the Brodziaks and Blues forward Ryan Reaves, Minner says he will have plenty of time to take on new clients — professional athlete or not.
He says he’ll still accept an equal trade of hockey memorabilia for his services, and may even offer a discount for a solid “Let’s Go Blues!”
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