Local ownership creates buzz for Rivermen

By WEEK Producer

August 7, 2013 Updated Aug 8, 2013 at 9:12 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The Southern Professional Hockey League version of the Peoria Rivermen doesn't play its first game for better than two months, but they're having no trouble with goals.

Season ticket renewals are running ahead of last year at this time and old customers are spending money again too.

"A lot of those season ticket holders who haven't been season ticket holders for the past couple of years are coming back on board," said Katie Pogeman, the assistant general manager of tickets for the team. "They're excited about still having hockey here in Peoria and it being under local ownership."

Its the ownership group that's created the buzz.

Bruce Saurs, Bart Rogers and John Butler say they're in it for the long haul, something fans were always skeptical about while the Blues owned the Rivermen.

Assistant general manager Mickey Gray says that makes a difference.

"Bruce has been here forever and Bart and John were a big part of the Rivermen back in the day," Gray said. "They always call it the golden age of the Rivermen, those late '90s, early 2000 teams. Those three guys who were a big part of this."

The team's new head coach was part of it too.

During the 9-year span between stints with the Rivermen, Jean Guy Trudel played in the NHL and in Europe. But during the off-season Trudel and his family always lived in his adopted home town of Peoria.

Trudel's presence on the bench gives this new Rivermen brand instant credibility. And he'll insist his players embrace the community the way he did.

"We're already making calendars for them to (make appearances) at practice with the Peoria Youth Hockey Association, going to hospitals, doing all those things that we used to do a lot more here," Trudel said. "We want to bring it back because that's what people want in Peoria."

They also want a competitive team and Trudel's working on that, recruiting the 30 players who will report to training camp October 15.