Worcester unable to support AHL team

11/9/2004 - St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The Worcester IceCats will move to Peoria, Ill., next season after the sale of the AHL team by the St. Louis Blues is completed.

The team will continue to operate as the Blues' top minor league affiliate and be renamed the Rivermen. The sale to Bruce Saurs and Anne Griffith and the relocation are subject to approval by the AHL's Board of Governors.

"By having our AHL affiliate team in Peoria, where it will be operated by strong local ownership, the Blues will benefit by halting our substantial operating losses of our AHL franchise owner in Worcester while maintaining our ability to monitor and develop our prospects," Blues president Mark Sauer said.

The Blues purchased the financially struggling team in 2001.

"Unfortunately, ticket revenue and corporate sponsorship levels in Worcester are well under AHL averages, and for many years there has been no one locally interested in investing in the IceCats," Sauer said.

Hockey in St. Louis is currently shut down by the NHL lockout that began in September and threatens to wipe out the entire season.

The Peoria Rivermen were the Blues' primary minor-league affiliate from the mid-1980s through 1994, when the team moved to Worcester.

Saurs owned the Rivermen from 1989-94 during which time the team had a record 18-game winning streak to start the 1990-91 season and won the International Hockey League championship.

"The Blues-Peoria partnership was key in driving interest in our sport at all levels during the late 1980s and early 1990s," Sauer said. "We look forward to rekindling that enthusiasm starting in 2005."

Saurs and Griffith are the owners and operators of the Peoria Rivermen in the East Coast Hockey League, a lower-level minor league also affiliated with the Blues.