Only a few months ago, a local ownership group stood in front of media and the Peoria community promising to bring back the history and the tradition of the Peoria Rivermen, after the St. Louis Blues decided to move the franchise.
Bart Rogers, John Butler, David Hunt, and most notably, Bruce Saurs, have committed the franchise to renewing the relationship between the organization and the community. This attempt at reconnecting has included many different promotional nights, restructured sponsorships with local companies, and increasing the availability of the players through meet-and-greets and community appearances.
But the Peoria Rivermen made their most impactful commitment to the community on Nov. 18, when they announced that Friday, Dec. 20 would be designated “Central Illinois STRONG Night,” where they will face-off at the Peoria Civic Center against the Bloomington Thunder. Special Rivermen jerseys will be auctioned off live following the game. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to the local American Red Cross to benefit families in Central Illinois that were impacted by the tornadoes.
“By talking to those on the ground and those agencies helping out, they have told us that the easiest and best way to get help and resources to those in need is through financial donations,” said Rivermen co-owner Bart Rodgers.
He added, “We ask all sports fans across our area, and fans of other SPHL teams, to step forward and make a monetary donation to help our local cause. As other needs arise down the road, we will adjust and continue to help assist where our organization can.”
On Nov. 27, Rivermen players spent over 90 minutes with a day care set up by the Washington Park District. Over 100 children from families who lost their homes in the tornado were in attendance. An extremely competitive dodge-ball game broke out where the kids jumped, ducked and dove their way around. But most importantly, the kids smiled and laughed.
“They have nothing to go home to, a lot of them literally,” Rivermen goaltender Eric Levine said. “To get the devastation off their minds for a little while was awesome. We are so glad we could be there, and be part of their healing.
There should be no doubt in Central Illinois that the Rivermen’s focus on the community is back. The days of St. Louis ownership has passed and local ownership has saved hockey in Peoria once again. But more important than hockey, local ownership has brought back a franchise that the community can be proud of, both on and off the ice.————————————————————————————————————–