ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – St. Louis Blues Defenseman Chris Butler remembers his days as a teenager playing for youth hockey teams in St. Louis.

“We used to go to tournaments and we’d get absolutely killed by Illinois’ and Michigan’s,” Butler says. “And when we went over the border is wasn’t even close.

But that’s nowhere near true anymore. He says it’s all thanks to the area coaches and local alumni.

“But I think it’s on the map now,” Butler says. “It’s great to see, it’s nice to see that the hard work a lot of people have put in is finally paying off.”

Even Canadian-grown talent Kelly Chase, who has made a home in St. Louis broadcasting the Blues on KMOX, says local talent could stack up against anyone.

“Anywhere in the world,” Chase says. “I mean we are going to have possibly five kids drafted in the first round this year out of St. Louis. That’s unheard of.”

Now the town just has to keep this trend growing.

“The most important thing to note is that a lot of kids are playing hockey because Brett Hull scored a whole bunch of goals and we build a bunch of rinks,” Chase says. “The key is now, is to take it to the next step.”

“You do have to travel, go to Michigan,” Butler says. “You have to go to the East Coast, you have to play Canadian teams you can kinda of see where you are comparatively. And it’s great to see that it’s grown and hopefully it’s going to continue to get better.

And our hometown team is helping with that. The Blues launched ‘Hockey STL 2020’ last November and will commit $2 million to youth hockey in the St. Louis area.

“That’s really the goal here and the St. Louis Blues have been very supportive of that,” Chase says. “But I think the immediate concern is, how are we going to replace what we have, if we are bursting at the seems already? And so the Blues have done a nice job of facilitating some of those needs.”

“It wasn’t maybe a hockey hotbed 20 years ago when I was growing up,” Butler says. “But you look at the expansion now and the development of players and where kids are going now and it’s great to see.”

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(TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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