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TSN.ca Staff
8/31/2006 12:43:42 PM

Newly minted St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts has guaranteed the team will win its home opener October 12 against the Boston Bruins.

"I just think that home opener is a big moment for us," Checketts tells the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "I know our guys will be up for that. ... It's the start of a new era. I know it's a trite phrase, but it's the Show-Me State ... so we're going to have to deliver to get the fans back."

It's been a summer of big change for the Blues, who finished last season with the worst record in the NHL. Former NHL goalie and hockey analyst John Davidson was installed as the head of hockey operations and in less than two months, he has added five new faces to the lineup, including Bill Guerin and Martin Rucinsky, as well as re-signing Doug Weight.

Checketts has even gone as far as expressing optimism that the Blues can get back to the playoffs as early as next season.

"I know the team will put a fair amount of pressure on itself. These guys who are in the room will feel strongly about delivering, so if we're in contention for a playoff spot going into the last 20 games, anything can happen."

Checketts also made the decision to raise ticket prices which didn't sit well with some fans, but the new owner says the increase was necessary to get the Blues to the next level.

"You can't have the best club in the NHL with the lowest ticket prices; it doesn't work," he explains. "We're under pressure to deliver a great team and a great experience, and the fans have to step up and pay more."

"(The fans) have a bitter taste in their mouth about last year and about stripping the club down. But I think they recognize that I'm not the one who stripped the club down, so I hope that they give us a chance."

Checketts says he did not agree with trading away defenseman Chris Pronger, which was made to free up salary and make the franchise more appealing to potential buyers.

"(Former owner) Bill (Laurie) thought he was doing the best thing to not commit the organization to long-term expensive contracts," Checketts said. "I would have rather had the franchise with Chris Pronger, but it wasn't in my hands."
 
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