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June 4, 2006

Eric Staal

Cory Stillman


ERIC STAAL: Everyone in Raleigh knows hockey a lot more than they did before, and that's a good feeling. Obviously they are going to expect us to make us to the Finals every year. They were there in '02 and now we're there again, so that's a good thing.
Q. It seems like fans around here during the regular season are really tied up with college but once the season dies down, a lot of them start gravitating this way and by the time the playoffs come, you have the crowd you want to have all the time.
ERIC STAAL: Yeah, hopefully we can continue to have a winning team and maybe we'll keep them over to hockey all year instead of the other sports.
It's a big sports market. There are a lot of college teams, a lot of football and basketball teams where you know, families have been born into. You've been raised going to watch NC State basketball.
I think with hockey coming in, it's a big craze and hopefully as we keep continuing to build here, fans will be coming to that.
Q. Do you follow college hoops much during the year like everybody else?
ERIC STAAL: Yeah, I actually started to pay attention to it more. I've been to a Duke game, a few NC State games as well a few of the football games.
Q. Have you adopted one of those teams as yours?
ERIC STAAL: I have an NC State sweatshirt. They do play out of our arena, so that counts for something.
Q. J.J. Redick was telling me that young women were so amorous that he could barely go to the supermarket without being followed around, I get the sense if there's somebody on this team having stalkers, it's probably you. How much does it happen and how do you deal with?
ERIC STAAL: That doesn't happen like J.J. Redick. I'm sure it's pretty crazy for him. Myself I can pretty much go anywhere without being bothered. I get recognized here and there but for me people are really nice. People are really nice, polite and wish you luck, but never any stalkers or anything like that (laughter).
Q. What's the feeling of what it's going to be like the beginning of the series, because the Oilers haven't been here in years and what's that going to be like?
ERIC STAAL: I think there's a lot of video obviously and preparing for the other team. Because it's the Finals and because there's so much hype going into it, I think it will be pretty much go, go, go, right off the bat and you make adjustments as you go.
It's going to be a challenge, obviously since we haven't seen them. It will be fun.
Q. Do you like the concept of not facing each other in the entire season and playing for the championship at the end?
ERIC STAAL: I like to play every team once during the regular season but this is just as good. I can't really complain. This is the Finals and I don't really care who we play. It will be a challenge.
Q. How do you see the special teams match up, who has the edge?
ERIC STAAL: Well, we are hoping we do. We haven't seen them yet. They do a good job of blocking shots. Their defense does a good job of fronting everything and we're going to have to do our best to get the pucks through and attack the net. It will be a good challenge.
Q. Talk about playing with Chris, you'll see a lot of him in this series.
CORY STILLMAN: He's a great player. He slows things down, he's always in position, he's tough to get around. He makes the right play every time he gets the puck.
Q. I spoke to you during the summer after you signed, and one of the reasons why you wanted to come here was what you had heard around the league about the family atmosphere and a great area for raising kids. Tell me about how your goals were met in terms of coming in here and getting in the community and also the community of this team.
CORY STILLMAN: I can't say enough about the city, to be honest with you. It's been great. My family has enjoyed it. My wife really likes it. We've gotten into a neighborhood which is great and we have a lot of friends there.
As a team, it has a family atmosphere here, too. It's a small area. Guys enjoy playing. The public is getting behind us. Probably after Christmas they started to jump on and really enjoyed coming. We're winning a lot of people over. I know in my neighborhood there are probably three, four families that have jumped on and can't weight to get season tickets for next year.
Q. Leading scorer in the playoffs, how are you dealing with the fame?
CORY STILLMAN: I can still go unnoticed pretty much where I want to, but it's exciting. Hopefully my face can be recognized for a long time, and in order to do that, we have to win.
Q. From the fan's perspective, with the exception of a few fans in Calgary, do you think it's going to be all the fans versus Carolina?
CORY STILLMAN: From my past experience going, yes, it is. The Canadians -- probably even fans in Calgary will jump behind and cheer Edmonton on, even though it takes a lot out of them. When you go out there, you're playing against the Edmonton Oilers but you have a nation that's going to cheer for Edmonton and it's going to be a lot of fun to play.
Q. How do you react to criticism that says you need a New York or a Philly?
CORY STILLMAN: To me, we're trying to sell the game. It's nice when different markets make it. Obviously the big markets, they want Detroit or New York or whatever. We are trying to sell games.
I went to a kids rink the other day, and there was 50, 60 kids on the ice. So if we can continue to win, obviously win this year, but in the next years, maybe the Southern cities, obviously people will be jumping in and want to go play hockey. Who knows, maybe one kid will play from the NHL down here.
Q. Talk about the importance of this Cup final, the first one after the lockout.
CORY STILLMAN: It's important and it's exciting. I think the game is a lot better. There's more scoring. If you're down by a goal or two, which for our team, we've been able to come back, tie games, win games. It's fun and obviously you want to be part of a celebration when there has been a year off.
Q. Ultimately, would the Stanley Cup mean more here than it would in Edmonton, just based on the fact, Canada, it's hockey, but Carolina, it's really still catching on here --
CORY STILLMAN: I think it would mean more to our team than theirs just as players. But I really have no answer on that one. Obviously we want to win, bring it here, and they can go down and say that a southern team has won a Cup again.
Q. The areas where USA Hockey has had the most growth is where the NHL has moved in recent years, Tampa and here. When ten years have gone by and you look back and you see the growth of hockey, do you think about your role and inspiring kids?
CORY STILLMAN: Is it me personally, no. But I think yes, we have come down and played, I enjoy living in the cities. Guys are starting to stay now. You can take whatever you want out of the lockout, but we lived in Tampa during the winter and I got to go and coach kids down there and tried to help them out and did the team improve, I want to say as a coach, they did.
It's exciting and the more kids you can get involved -- the year after the Lightning won, they said they had 400 or 500 kids under the age of 7 sign up for hockey. That's what we want to do. We're biased. We think it's the best game in the world and we want to do our part to get everyone to enjoy it.
Q. Jim Rutherford was saying that you wanted to be in a certain kind of area because of your kids, can you talk about why this is a good area.
CORY STILLMAN: Well, obviously most guys don't play on the same team throughout their career now, so you get to play with different guys who have moved around. Everyone who has played here in Carolina has always said it's a great place to live, a great place for your family. It was a selling card when we came down and we've enjoyed it. I can sit here and say today that I hope I end my career here. I would like to stay here and play here as long as I can.
Q. In your first press conference, you said this team has enough ability to get to the Stanley Cup.
CORY STILLMAN: I did say that, it might have been July or August, and I said when you look down and see the depth that we had that people don't see, we had no big names, we had up-and-coming stars that were not stars yet -- I said we had a team that could challenge, I don't know if it would be this year, but it makes a difference of why you come to a hockey club and you want to be part of that team.

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