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Stillman carrying on household custom | TheAHL.com

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by Ryan Smith | AHL On The BeatSecond-year Springfield Thunderbirds defenseman Riley Stillman – son of two-time Stanley Cup champion and 17-year-pro ahead Cory Stillman – just isn’t the primary son of a professional hockey participant to comply with in his dad’s footsteps, nor will he be the final.Like others, he has had his jersey quantity honor his household, sporting his dad’s quantity 61 in Florida and Springfield in his rookie season. This yr, Riley switched his quantity to 77 in honor of one other member of the family, however extra on that later.What the 21-year-old Stillman has, above all else, is a household story that’s so unbelievable, it might be scoffed at by Hollywood rom-com administrators.The story begins with Mara Stefanski, a highschool scholar in Ontario who, like many younger women her age, had her eyes on a younger man in her class. She went house to inform her father, Bud, who on the time was teaching a Junior B hockey workforce in Peterborough. As is the norm for therefore many excessive schoolers experiencing first situations of affection, Mara would begin by simply giving little particulars like “there was this cute man at college.”Later, Bud would inform his daughter of his praises for a younger man set to check out for his workforce – a participant he noticed exhibit quite a lot of ability and, in his eyes, had an opportunity to change into a very productive participant regardless of his youth.Quick-forward a few months, and Mara and Cory had begun relationship in what would change into a case of highschool sweethearts. To Bud’s shock, the dialog between him and his daughter earlier that yr had an unthinkable connection: Mara and Bud had been describing the identical boy.“It’s humorous how quite a bit is owed to the sport, particularly with how our lives are formed out,” stated Riley, recounting the unbelievable circumstances round his father’s connection to each. “They chortle about it now – that they had been speaking about (Cory) however they didn’t realize it.”Having already dated his future father-in-law’s daughter earlier than turning into Bud’s personal workforce participant, Cory had gained the great graces of the household, and 7 years later, he and Mara could be married.Riley Stillman wears his dad’s #61 with Florida and his grandfather’s #77 with Springfield. (Picture: Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire through Getty Photos)The connections didn’t finish with the story of Cory and Mara’s first encounter. When Riley was chosen by the Panthers and ultimately started his professional profession with Springfield final October, he additionally found he wouldn’t be the primary member of his household to have a run-in with legendary longtime Springfield tools supervisor Ralph Calvanese, who had Bud as a participant through the 1982-83 season with the Springfield Indians.Final summer time, Riley got here up with an concept to pay homage to his grandfather’s time in Springfield in addition to his Calder Cup title days in Maine, the place his quantity 77 hangs within the rafters in Portland.The thought was to put on 77 in his AHL video games, whereas sustaining his dad’s quantity 61 in Florida.“I discussed (carrying 77) to Ralphie final yr, and he referred to as me over the summer time. He was ecstatic concerning the concept,” stated Stillman. “He received to see Bud initially of this season (to catch up) as properly.”Riley, in fact, has gained much more than only a jersey quantity from his father and grandfather’s expertise, too. As a six-year-old, he witnessed his father seize his lifelong dream when Cory gained the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, even after he scared his oldest son when he dropped the gloves with Calgary’s Andrew Ference within the sequence.Two years later, Riley watched his dad win it once more, this time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Every Cup win was the primary in these franchises’ histories. The reminiscences related to the latter have caught with Riley ever since.“(Carolina) had a particular group, but additionally a particular group of households across the recreation. There was a giant group of (gamers’ youngsters) round my age. Everybody (in Raleigh) was sort of getting their first expertise of hockey in (the Carolinas),” Riley remembers. “It introduced quite a lot of pleasure going to the rink day-after-day for me, watching him play and watching his workforce win the Cup.”Along with his embellished NHL profession, Cory Stillman notched 164 factors in two AHL seasons and was an AHL All-Star in 1995. (Picture: Jim McIsaac/Getty Photos)Like nearly any Canadian child, hockey was in Riley’s blood, however not to a degree the place it was compelled upon him strictly primarily based upon the connection along with his NHL father.“There was by no means any strain to play (from my mother and father),” stated Riley. “However in no matter I needed to do, they advised me to work as laborious as I may to be the perfect. Within the first grade, I wrote on a chunk of paper, ‘I need to play within the NHL.’ I’ve devoted my life to try this.”Riley credit Dany Heatley and Scott Stevens as two of his notable hockey icons from his youth, however he at all times left the highest spot for Dad, and in flip, Dad left Riley with easy, sound recommendation as he launched into his junior profession.“Work laborious and hold your mouth shut. That’s it,” Cory advised his son.Years later, Riley has by no means forgotten these seven phrases, and the corresponding spirit of competitors has fueled him.“(To me), holding your mouth shut is simply an old-fashioned technique to discuss simply going about your corporation and being who you might be. On the finish of the day, I’m a kind of guys that each one I need to do is win. That’s the best way I used to be raised and that’s the best way our family labored, whether or not it was playing cards, bowling, snowboarding – if (my brother Chase) did it this pace, I need to go sooner. If (Chase) beat me, I’d say okay, I’m beating him tomorrow. There have been quite a lot of fistfights that (happened) as a result of any person beat any person.”Bud Stefanski was the MVP of the 1984 Calder Cup Playoffs with the Maine Mariners. (Picture: Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)And whereas Riley Stillman likes to mannequin his recreation as a modern-day model of Stevens – who shared cottage house on a close-by lake to the Stillmans – he continues to see himself as only one piece of the entire larger, extra vital component: the workforce.“My dad at all times advised me, ‘The higher the workforce does, the higher people do. If the workforce does properly, everyone does properly.’”Simplistic? Maybe. However for Riley, that lesson has been central to him attaining that childhood dream written on a first-grade classroom paper.Upon making his NHL debut, the truth of the second reaffirmed his ardour for the household’s recreation.“(My debut) was superior and nerve-wracking; it was like, ‘Okay, I’m right here. Now it is a job. That is life.’ I nonetheless get pleasure from coming to the rink day-after-day. I’m fortunate to have the ability to play the perfect recreation on this planet for a residing.”

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