ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – By the account of St. Louis Chairman Tom Stillman the Winter Classic was a complete success. And not just gameday on January 2, but the entire 10-day period is still being celebrated.

“(St. Louis) really, I think, the greatest sports city in the country,” Stillman say And it says a lot about the way that people support their teams. The way they come together behind their teams… It’s a pretty special place.”

This season the Blues are celebrating 50 year of professional hockey, and no one can talk about the franchise’s history than Bobby Plager. Who has worked for the Blues longer than anyone.

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“Well since I’ve been here since day one and we had one rink,” Plager says. “An enclosed rink it was called Winterland on St. Charles Rock Road and just left the rink this morning with the kids playing. It’s really, I mean it’s unreal.”

And now there are ice hockey facilities all over the St. Louis area. Which can partially be credited to the Blues who have taken pride in growing youth hockey in St. Louis.

“I know that our faces kinda carry a little weight,” Blues defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk says. “But the work that’s done behind the scenes and how much they care about this community. As players it makes it so easy on us to play in a city and to have the support of these fans.”

That’s thanks to programs like Blues For Kids and the Blues 14 Fund, to support St. Louis youth hockey, that is now being noticed across the nation.

“And you look at the draft last year to have 5 guys from St. Louis in the first round,” Blues alumni Barett Jackman says. “And just the support of the team. I think St. Louis is finally on the map for being one of the elite hockey cities in North America.”

“Just talking about the St. Louis-born players, playing the World Juniors, talking about Matthew Tkuchk that’s playing. Talking about Ryan McGinist that’s in the American hockey league for the Arizona Coyotes,” TV broadcaster Darren Pang says. “It’s not a fluke.”

And that’s thanks to Blues alumni like Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Keith Tkachuk and others who have stayed in the area to help coach and develop those players. Which is something that St. Louis’ other professional sports franchise is also very good at.

“The Cardinals are really kind of the same way,” Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III says. “We’ve got a ton of alumni in this community and they are coaching leagues and summer ball and their kids are playing and the team are similar in that way. It’s just a great way for them to give back after they create these memories on the ice and on this field.”

(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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