BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington’s hockey franchise will carry a new moniker when it enters the Southern Professional Hockey League for the upcoming season.
Rather than engage in a legal battle with the Central Hockey League over the Blaze nickname, the franchise decided to rebrand itself as the Thunder. The team’s new colors are purple, silver and black and the logo features a stylized locomotive.
Team co-owner and president David Holt said the franchise intended to go forward as the Blaze until the CHL’s last-second threat of legal action.
“We had started ordering merchandise and game jerseys were approved and orders placed when we received notice from CHL attorneys that they felt they had a right to the name and logo,” said Holt.
An ownership group that includes Holt, Central Illinois Arena Management executives John Butler and Bart Rogers and former Peoria Rivermen owner Bruce Saurs took over the Blaze in May while also forming an expansion Rivermen team and moving both franchises to the SPHL.
According to Holt, the CHL told him it would not release the Blaze name even if he paid the league $100,000. Holt said that while the team’s legal advisers thought the result of a potential suit could end in their favor, the name change would avoid costly and prolonged litigation.
So the ownership group decided to “use this opportunity to make a break from the old team and league and start to build new.”
The new name was chosen to form a partnership with the Bloomington Youth Hockey Association, whose teams are also known as the Thunder. Holt said the new partnership will help promote hockey at all levels.
“Obviously from an organization standpoint we are extremely happy to be able to partner with BYHA as they have hundreds of participants at all age groups,” he said. “This allows us to work towards our ultimate goal of promoting hockey in Bloomington.”
The change to Thunder marks the third name for Bloomington’s minor league hockey team. The PrairieThunder served as the original hockey franchise at U.S. Cellular Coliseum before being replaced by the Blaze in 2011.
Home openers set: The Thunder will open the SPHL season at home against Peoria on Oct. 25. While the complete schedule is not yet final, a majority of Bloomington home games will be on weekends.
A home preseason game against the Rivermen has been scheduled for Oct. 19, with general admission tickets priced at $7.
Booras to Wichita: Jon Booras, who played all seven of the Bloomington franchises’ seasons, will remain at the CHL level after signing with the Wichita Thunder earlier this month.
Booras was the captain and leading scorer for the Blaze in their two seasons, totaling 59 goals and 139 points in 118 games. Adding his five seasons with the PrairieThunder, he amassed 187 goals and 465 points in 463 games for Bloomington.