"I'm kind of in a state of shock."
That's the reaction of former Rivermen co-owner Bruce Saurs to news the St. Louis Blues are ending its lease with the Peoria Civic Center for its Triple-A, AHL affiliate.
It means the hockey team now known as the Rivermen will not be playing in Peoria next season.
A sale of the Rivermen to a new NHL parent club became official Monday. A news release issued by the Rivermen office states the NHL's Vancouver Canucks have agreed to buy the Rivermen, the St. Louis Blues' American Hockey League franchise, from the Blues. The transaction is subject to approval by the AHL and neither side will comment during the approval process.
Saurs, who bought the Rivermen from the City of Peoria in 1989, sold the team to the Blues in 2008. The Rivermen were included when beer distributor Tom Stillman purchased the Blues last year.
Saurs tells 1470 & 100.3 WMBD Peoria needs hockey.
"I think we need the Rivermen here, just like the Chiefs and Bradley," says Saurs. "We need it all."
Saurs says he knows, though, it takes work to get minor league hockey to succeed.
"I know when I first bought (the Rivermen) from the city we did quite well in the International Hockey League," explains Saurs. "But then we moved to down to the Double-A level in the ECHL and we lost a lot of money there."
Published reports indicate the Blues are selling the team known as the Rivermen to the Vancouver Canucks. Vancouver's current affiliation agreement with the AHL's Chicago Wolves expires the end of this season.
Vancouver may or may not keep the team in Peoria, depending on how other NHL/AHL affilations fall into place during the upcoming off season.
Does Saurs regret selling the team now?
"I really do, a little bit," admits Saurs. "I thought (the Blues) would keep the Rivermen here. I didn't think they would drop it like that."
Saurs also knows, though, the sports business is all about making money.
"I guess it always was, you just kind of hate to admit it."