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Owner 'overjoyed' Blues are in conference final

Stillman says playoff run comes at good time for St. Louis fans

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- When the St. Louis Blues formally announced a new ownership group was in place on May 9, 2012, chairman and CEO Tom Stillman and his 15 partners had one goal in mind: winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.

After some anguish and a lot of heartbreak, the Blues took a big step toward achieving that goal with a 6-1 victory against the Dallas Stars in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round on Wednesday, as the Blues advanced to the conference final for the first time since 2001.

"Just overjoyed," said Stillman, who was in Dallas for the game along with Donn Lux, one of his ownership partners. "It was a different kind of ending from the other Game 7 (in the first round, a 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks). That was edge of your seat, all the way to the end and it whipped you up in a frenzy and this one, as you got into the third period, it looked like this was going to happen. I was sitting back and saying, 'My gosh, it's going to happen! It's going to happen!' We're through to the conference finals and I'm just overjoyed."

The Blues' deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is not only significant from a financial standpoint, but also may help sooth the city's sports fans with the NFL's Rams having recently announced they are moving to Los Angeles.

"It's going to be great," Stillman said of the fan excitement. "It's going to be crazy and we're glad. It comes at a good time for St. Louis. It just kind of shows that power and value of sports in bringing people together, bringing a city and an area together. I think that's maybe the most important thing that sports brings and we're seeing it in St. Louis and we're seeing it at a good time for the city."

Stillman said the sting of losing in the first round the past three seasons has worn off with two series victories.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Blues advance to WCF with 6-1 win

"It does because I think that's just part of sports," Stillman said. "It's part of a team growing, maturing and learning. 

"I didn't need wiping away [the sting] as much because that's the process that most teams go through. You can see how much they've learned and how much they've matured and how much they've learned about dealing with big situations like this. They laid it out there [Wednesday] night."

And with each early playoff exit in recent years, there was a mounting sentiment among a loyal fan base that Stillman was going to have to shake up the organization. Stillman stuck with coach Ken Hitchcock, general manager Doug Armstrong and the Blues' key players, and his patience paid off.

"All that credit goes to Doug, to [Hitchcock] and on down the line," said Stillman, who bought the team from Dave Checketts. "They have just made excellent hockey judgments all the way through. We've been careful not to make knee-jerk reactions, emotional decisions. I think their judgment has been good.

"[The team has] become closer over the years. It's also a learning process and maturation process that teams go through. How many times have you heard about championship teams that had disappointments in the playoffs and they had tough times that they learned from it? You don't always win right away, you learn a little bit and then you get a little better. This year, we were able to do it. I think also the injection of youth (such as Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko) has been helpful, both in physical and intangible ways."

Stillman is enjoying the timing of Blues' playoff run, with the franchise turning 50 years old next year and St. Louis hosting the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against Chicago.

"It's a good way to move into our 50th year," Stillman said.

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