As the Peoria Rivermen wait for lease negotiations to begin with the Peoria Civic Center, there was a news report about a development project in Pekin that would include a 3,500-seat arena for youth hockey and a destination for Peoria's pro hockey team to call home.
The Rivermen say that is not a viable option for them next fall. The team needs a place to play for the 2023-24 season in the event a deal is not reached to remain at the Civic Center.
Asked if the team was in talks with Pekin officials and eyeing a proposed complex there as an alternative home, Rivermen co-owner Bart Rogers said, "No."
Rogers went on to say:
"The Rivermen organization was mentioned in a local news story (this week) about their involvement in a new proposed sports complex and proposed multipurpose arena in Pekin. As we are excited and thrilled for the community of Pekin for this progressive development and idea of this proposed complex, we've had no conversations with developers about it other than a (brief) inquiry to the City of Pekin about 45 days ago.
"We know these things take years to come to fruition and develop and as we sit now, know only what we have read in news stories on its size, amenities and possible timeframe to its opening.
"A 3-4 year wait for our business to sit dark is not an option in the place we sit today."
Pekin mayor Mark Luft was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Peoria has been home to professional hockey for 41 years. The reality is, the Rivermen probably can't afford to sit out even one season. They are still recovering from their 2020-21 dormancy forced by state COVID-operating restrictions.
Minor league hockey has a graveyard full of teams who went dormant, vowing to return, and never did (see Bloomington, Mississippi, Columbus, Ga., just in the SPHL alone since Peoria joined).
Education Day arrives
Now they'll play a rise-and-shine game on Thursday at Carver Arena, hosting the rival Quad City Storm in an early morning tilt.
The 10:30 a.m. start is part of the team's third annual Education Day game, geared for area school kids to attend.The Rivermen expect over 6,000 kids to be on hand Thursday.
They'll get in for $5 (standard ticket price is $20), receive souvenir posters from the team, be given hockey-related math, science, language arts, reading and social studies lessons and have the option to bring their own lunch, buy food at the concession stand or buy a special package that includes, hot dog, chips and soda for $5.
The game is backed by Eureka College, and is a huge annual undertaking by the Rivermen staff, in particular Katie Pogeman and newly-hired sales executive Steph Leverton.
The players enjoy it, and the team gets to expose the game to kids they hope will grow up to be future fans.
Rivermen captain Alec Hagaman and veteran winger Jordan Ernst are wearing prototype coverings on their skates. The skates are wrapped — similar to a customized wrap on a bus — with the Rivermen logo.
It's from a new company called SkateSkins, and the Rivermen are serving as a test for the material.
The company can make specialized logos for any team or business and put them on the skates. They can be applied by the customer and can be removed and reused without any damage to the skates or the product.
Goodbye to Roy Kanda
The Rivermen brought in Japanese defenseman Roy Kanda for his first shot at North American hockey last month. He was the second Japanese player in the franchise's 41-year history.
He now is history as the team traded him to Vermilion County for future considerations.
"We enjoyed having Roy here and he has great potential," Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel said. "But our roster is returning to full strength and we had to make room. Roy needed to go somewhere where he can play and get the minutes he needs to develop."
Kanda played seven games for the Rivermen and notched two assists with a plus-2 rating.
Goodbye to Kasey Kulczycki
The Rivermen traded winger Kasey Kulczycki on Sunday night to Huntsville for center Carter Roo. The move came on the heels of Peoria's two-game sweep over the Havoc at Carver Arena, during which Kulczycki was a healthy scratch.
The Rivermen brought in Kulczycki at the end of last season as a blue-collar third-line work ethic guy, and he responded by helping them win a championship. He returned for the title defense this season and played 13 games, with two goals and two assists.
Roo played 15 games for Huntsville, scoring two goals, adding four assists with a plus-3 rating.
The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Champlin, Minn., native played five seasons for NCAA Div.-III Wisconsin-Stevens Point — where former Rivermen Joe Kalisz and Chris Allemon played, the latter as Roo's teammate.
The rookie turned pro last spring and played five games with Huntsville.
Baer is on a tear
Rivermen center Alec Baer, the defending SPHL MVP and scoring champion, has risen to sixth in the league scoring race with 22 points.
He is the hottest scorer in the league right now with a 10-game pointscoring streak intact, during which he has eight goals, 10 assists and a plus-9 rating. He had a goalscoring streak snapped at seven games on Saturday against Huntsville.
"That was a nice goalscoring run, I'll try to keep the points streak going now," Baer said. "Things are getting better for me, although I still can do better in the way I play away from the puck.
"But me, and our team, we're headed in the right direction."
The last team to shut out Baer, by the way, was Quad City, which did it on consecutive nights in Moline in early November.
Rivermen rookie winger Tyler Barrow has risen to the top of the SPHL rookie scoring list with 19 points in 14 games. … Chillicothe native and Rivermen forward-defenseman Austin Wisely has been activated from IR and rejoined the roster. … Rivermen right wing Cayden Cahill was placed on the 21-day IR. … The Rivermen activated goaltender Ben Churchfield from IR. To make room, Peoria released goaltender Josh Boyko and emergency backup goaltender Ian Eberle. … Rivermen veteran defenseman Nick Neville is fourth among all SPHL blueliners with 14 assists in 16 games. Neville and Peoria teammate Zach Wilkie are one-two in scoring among all SPHL defensemen. … Rivermen center Alec Baer has eight power play assists and 11 power play points, both third-best in the SPHL. … The Rivermen .781 pointsmaking percentage is best in the league, nearly 100 percentage points higher than next-best Roanoke. … Peoria heads into the two-game set against Quad City in first place, one point ahead of Evansville, which has played four more games.
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. He can be reached at 686-3206 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.
This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Peoria Rivermen react to Pekin arena project; education day game