Peoria Rivermen to stay in Peoria

May 22, 2013

The Peoria Rivermen are ready to operate as part of the Southern Professional Hockey League next season. The new owners of the local team, Illinois Pro Sports, Wednesday signed a contract to remain at the Peoria Civic Center.

The Rivermen were at risk of leaving the city after the team was sold by the St. Louis Blues to the Vancouver Canucks. Then Vancouver told the Civic Center it wouldn’t run its American Hockey League team in Peoria. But the owners of the Bloomington Blaze, who are also former Rivermen executives, came forward to say they will operate both teams, and were moving to have both become part of the southern league.

Jim Wetherington is the General Manager of the Civic Center. He says fans will notice a difference now that the Rivermen will not be part of the American Hockey League.

“The players are going to be approachable. The players are going to be back in the club room after the games, so that kids can get their jerseys signed, (and) so mom and dad can meet the players. They are going to be out in the community. The Triple A Hockey, the AHL, that wasn’t their business model. So, it’s going to be more fan friendly.”

The owner of the St. Louis Blues recently said low attendance was a reason the Rivermen were sold. Wetherington says he expects attendance to increase with the new affiliation. Owners of the team will announce a new head coach soon.