Is this a for sure thing? I found this article posted last night that said it's all rumors. The Blues are in talks, but it's not official yet.http://m.pjstar.com/jstar/db_/contentde ... ue#display
Is Peoria’s 31-year run as a professional hockey market is in jeopardy?
The Peoria Rivermen could be gone after this season is over, based on source reports from the AHL and NHL that have been circulating since late January.
“Nothing is settled (about Peoria’s future). Nothing is decided. The best answer right now is a bit in limbo,” Blues chief operating officer Bruce Affleck said Monday. “I know the rumors are out there and I can’t completely squash them.”
The parent club St. Louis Blues own the Rivermen. The Peoria franchise was included as part of the NHL team’s purchase by St. Louis beer distributor Tom Stillman last year.
The word circulating in hockey circles is that Stillman might not want to write an annual check to fund an AHL farm team. He is said to be in talks to sell the Rivermen to the Vancouver Canucks, who would in turn move Peoria’s team to Abbotsford, B.C.
Abbotsford presently is home to an AHL farm team owned by Calgary. But in the primary rumor, Calgary moves its AHL team to Utica, N.Y., Tulsa, Okla., or other places.
Vancouver would then buy the Rivermen from the Blues and moves them there. The Blues then would sign with the Chicago Wolves to serve as parent club there.
The Wolves presently are AHL farm club to Vancouver. Their multiyear affilation deal expires at the end of this season.
There are other variations: Calgary sells its Abbotsford team to Vancouver and buys another AHL team — ostensibly the Rivermen via the Blues — and moves them out of Peoria.
Or the Blues retain ownership of their AHL farm team, but move the Rivermen to Kansas City, Indianapolis or Evansville, Ind.
Calgary has flat out denied it is moving AHL Abbotsford to Utica. Chicago Wolves general manager Wendell Young says he has talked to eight NHL teams about a parent club deal in Chicago. But he says none of them are the Blues.
I’d like to deliver an overwhelming denial from the Blues to Rivermen fans on Peoria’s team. But there isn’t one.
Stillman did not return a call Monday.
Are the Rivermen for sale? Is St. Louis pulling out of the Peoria market?
“For sale is too strong a term,” Affleck said. “Have we talked to people? Yes. But not in months. NHL teams talk all the time, and we talk about a number of things. Affiliations are very fluid in the AHL and this is part of the process all the time.
“But I’ve had no conversations with the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve had no conversations with the Chicago Wolves.”
Young confirmed that in a Journal Star interview last month. He had nothing new to add Monday, other than to say “Vancouver is our parent club, and I’m flying there to attend meetings on April 1 where NHL trade deadline discussions will take place.
“Would I be doing that if we were bringing in the Blues?”
Said Affleck: “This all stems from the rumors about Calgary’s intentions to move from Abbotsford. That’s generated a lot of (rumor) and there’s been as many as five teams named in it. Our understanding that the Calgary and Vancouver things fell apart.”
The AHL and NHL are heading into a fluid era the next couple seasons. AHL president Dave Andrews has said the league will work to create a far west division in the near future. The NHL wants that geography for its teams out in Vancouver, Calgary, Anaheim, Los Angeles, etc.
The NHL has approved a re-alignment plan, but there won’t be 15 teams operating in the NHL’s West Conference next season, and that seems likely to delay the far west AHL plan.
In the meantime, the Blues have two more seasons left on their Rivermen lease with the Peoria Civic Center.
“We have not notified the Peoria Civic Center that our status is changing, and the deadline in our lease to do that (without monetary penalty) for next season has passed,” Affleck said. “As of right now, we are looking at operating in Peoria next season.
“We’d like to have more people in the building. But I can say the same thing for Blues games.
“(Blues GM) Doug Armstrong and Tom Stillman look at the AHL operation as research and development investment for players. You lose money there. Very few teams in the AHL make money.”
The Blues, via the Rivermen, just signed a major sponsorship deal with Brewers Distibuting in Peoria, in which the company will re-decal the Rivermen team bus as its sponsor.
The Rivermen business staff has been green-lighted to go about the business of selling tickets and sponsorships for next season in Peoria.
Neither the Rivermen, nor the Blues, have a budget set for next season yet, according to Affleck, but he says that will come soon.
This has been a miserable season for the last-place Rivermen and their fans.
But worse, would be no pro hockey in Peoria.
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