Blues owner sold on St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - There's been talk that the Rams move is great news for the St. Louis Blues: freeing up more money for St. Louis sports fans to spend on hockey.

The Blues chairman/owner doesn't see it that way. Blues chairman, Tom Stillman, says he takes issue with the Rams claims about St. Louis.

Stillman seems as sad as anyone about Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, taking his team out of town.

“I am. A lot of people like to say this is going to be good for the Blues,” Stillman said. “But that’s not how we see it. We’re here in St. Louis for the long term. If something is not good for St. Louis in the long term, it’s not good for us.”

He understands Kroenke’s dilemma: a decade of losing teams, declining attendance, and a chance to cash in and start over in another market.

But the Blues were in far worse shape when Kroenke’s brother-in-law, Bill Laurie owned the team. The Blues were among the worst teams in the NHL. Crowds were not even large enough to keep all the concession stands open.

Stillman surfaced as a potential owner then, and years later would lead the group that now owns the team. But his eye has never been on moving out and cashing in. St. Louis, he says, is too good a market for that; most definitely a three team market. He says it’s on ownership to make it work.

“We have to build an organization and connection to the community that takes us through those periods when we do cycle down a little bit. Where the team on the ice isn’t winning as much, but we still have the connection and the loyalty because of what we’ve been doing and what we’ve been building,” Stilllman said.

He doubts anyone will take seriously the Rams assertions that the Riverfront Stadium proposal would lead to financial ruin, that St. Louis is dying a market. The Blues have proven otherwise, even in a 3 team town.

“I don’t get it. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I don’t care how big the market or all the money that’s waiting. This is where we want to be. This is a great market…we are St. Louis,” Stillman said.

More than anything, Stillman hopes St. Louis appreciates the efforts of Stadium Task Force chief, Dave Peacock, who Stillman says put his heart and soul into the stadium project for more than a year… still hard to believe for him that somehow it’s not enough.