Peoria loses Rivermen – Blues to shut down AHL team

Mike McKenna on New Years Eve, 2012.

Mike McKenna on New Years Eve, 2012.

PEORIA, ILL – Goodbye to Blues.

A spokesman for the Peoria Rivermen has confirmed that the St. Louis Blues will pull the AHL team, which the Blues own, out of Peoria after this season ends.

That’s all the team is saying right now, officially. Speculation has run rampant over the past few weeks. It has been rumored that the Rivermen were part of a bigger shuffling of teams, with the Vancouver Canucks purchasing the AHL franchise and moving it. If the team is not sold, it will simply be inactive for the 2013-14 campaign.

That leaves the Peoria Civic Center without a primary tenant. It also leaves nine full-time employees in limbo. The team also provided 4 internships for local college students, annually, as well. That’s not counting the 100+ employees of the Civic Center that work before, during and after each game.

Professional hockey got its’ start in 1982 when the Peoria Prancers took to the ice in the old IHL. Two seasons later, the team took the name “Rivermen.” The Rivermen won two Turner Cups in those 14 seasons and were a perennial playoff team.

As the IHL began to crumble in the mid-90’s, the city welcomed the ECHL in 1996. During their nine-year tenure in the ECHL, the Rivermen were an elite team, winning the the Kelly Cup once and with deep playoff runs, often.

In 2005, Peoria jumped back into Triple-A hockey. Although fans enjoyed the affiliation with the St. Louis Blues, the team only made the playoffs three times in eight seasons, never getting beyond the first round.

What’s next for Peoria hockey? Fans wonder if October will bring a return of the ECHL or perhaps the birth of the CHL franchise. Many suspect, however, that the Peoria Civic Center arena may simply remain dark.for a year.

The only certainty is that Peoria hockey fans face an uncertain summer. 

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