Thunder president: 'There will be hockey'

2014-03-25T16:47:00Z Thunder president: 'There will be hockey'Joe Deacon
March 25, 2014 4:47 pm  • 

BLOOMINGTON — The Bloomington Thunder hockey team will still exist next season, team president David Holt said Tuesday.

“There will be hockey and it will be the Thunder,” said Holt. “Things are moving very quickly and we're excited about the direction we're taking.”

That direction may point to the Thunder's departure from the Southern Professional Hockey League, separating their one-season rivalry with the Peoria Rivermen.

The Thunder and Rivermen were jointly owned by a group that included Holt, Central Illinois Arena Management President John Butler and CIAM General Manager Bart Rogers.

Bloomington concluded its SPHL season in last place with a 20-33-3 record while Peoria placed third and will open the President's Cup playoffs Wednesday against Columbus at the Peoria Civic Center.

While nothing has been finalized, one possibility could see the Thunder transform from a professional team to a member of the nation's top junior league, the United States Hockey League.

“There has been interest expressed in the market and it is being reviewed by the league,” said USHL Director of Communications Brian Werger. “We're always looking to explore opportunities and Bloomington is one the league has looked at in the past.”

The USHL operated a 16-team circuit of clubs in nine Midwest states, with an expansion team slated for Madison, Wis., next season. Players range from age 16-20, with most moving on to NCAA Division I programs. The league had 32 players selected in last year's National Hockey League draft.

Switching the city-owned U.S. Cellular Coliseum's hockey tenant from a pro league to a junior level could impact CIAM's contract to operate the arena. The contract specifies the company must secure professional sports franchises with a total of about 50 home games a year.

The arena also serves as home to the Bloomington Edge indoor football team and the Bloomington Flex basketball team.

“CIAM is charged with providing several sports teams as part of their contract with the city and unfortunately we’ve had a history of significant turnover in ownership of teams, including that of hockey,” said City Manager David Hales.

Hales confirmed Butler and Rogers are no longer involved in ownership of the Thunder.

“The new arrangement will return them to focusing primarily on operation and management of the Coliseum and allow new ownership to take over the hockey team,” said Hales.

A post on the Thunder's Facebook page is promoting season ticket packages for the 2014-15 season.

Rachel Wells contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(21) Comments

  1. WFO
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    WFO - March 28, 2014 8:19 am
    Please educate yourself on the game if you call yourself a hockey fan and post opinions. Payying for a seat does not make you an expert. Junior hockey is not played at the Pepsi Center...never has.
  2. WFO
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    WFO - March 28, 2014 6:56 am
    The USHL is the direction hockey should have taken in this town from the begining. Ask anyone in this community that knows the game. This is the highest level of amateur hockey in the United States. Check out the webiste at and see the list of players from this league in the NHL...Pavelski...Bollig...Vanek...Oshie...Abdelkater...etc. 70% or more of these players go to play Division 1 every year. For once we will have a team in here held together with some hockey knowledge and hockey business sense instead of twine and bailing wire!
  3. perfume river
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    perfume river - March 27, 2014 8:53 pm
    The season ticket holders I've spoken with are done. There'll be a lot of empty seats center ice next season. Jr. hockey plays daily in the Pepsi Ice Center. If the City can't provide a quality program, paying $400.00 a seat for pick up hockey isn't cost effective for me. and the public generally agrees.
  4. mahagga
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    mahagga - March 27, 2014 7:56 am
    Your just punishing yourself, this league is far better than lower level pro hockey.
  5. mahagga
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    mahagga - March 27, 2014 7:55 am
    If they get a USHL team I will be a frequent visitor to the games, tons of future draft picks, NHL players, and the USA hockey under 18 team plays in the league, so you get a look at the next crop of World Junior players and American NHLers . Much preferable to lower level pro hockey.
  6. DirtyDawg
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    DirtyDawg - March 27, 2014 7:46 am
    if you would have attended a few games you would have realized our guys get called up just like guys off other teams do.... That's kind of the frustrating part about it...Especially when they take your leading scorer, defensemen or goalie for the weekend (or even longer).
  7. redwings79
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    redwings79 - March 27, 2014 6:57 am
    Our owners were in charge of OUR team here in Peoria. From Day 1 they gave Holt complete control over the team there in Bloomington and said they would oversee the team in Peoria. They in no way had an obligation to Bloomington. Rodgers had worked for the Rivermen in the past so naturally he would be the guy in charge here. No one is kicking the Thunder out of the Coliseum, bloomington will still have hockey there next year and beyond. Bloomington Hockey has never turned a profit and if they have it hasnt been anytime recently. Why would investors/ownership continue to write checks for a team that isn't going to make them a profit?? When bloomington decides to embrace and support hockey, that's when u will see things turn around. Otherwise you will continue to have what you have now.. Chaos.. as for our owners, neither of them live in Bloomington... again another reason why they oversaw the team here in Peoria.
  8. chaos
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    chaos - March 27, 2014 6:17 am
    this maybe the best thing that has happened to bloomington hockey, some of the best of the USA jr's program entering our program , kids that are playing to get signed or go on to a D1 or pro contracts, before you give up on this i recommend that you go to a game or two. I know having played for 24 years of my life this will be way better talent than any sphl or echl for a hockey minded person, if you just like to watch big hits and fights then you may not like this league and you are blinded on what hockey really is
  9. Hero of the Chappaquiddick
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    Hero of the Chappaquiddick - March 26, 2014 9:16 pm
    Call ups? Let's not kid ourselves here. No one who has played for any of the hockey teams in town have been called up for anything.
  10. ptfan
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    ptfan - March 26, 2014 8:32 pm
    As far as changing players, that's what hockey is. That's the nature of the beast. Call ups, waivers, trades etc. That's just something fans have to deal with and come to terms with.
  11. ptfan
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    ptfan - March 26, 2014 8:30 pm
    They HAD to let go of the Blaze name when they changed leagues. The CHL was going to sue them if they used Blaze in the new league. Under the contract they had with the CHL they had one more year and could have left withiut consequence. But as they went ahead and jumped ship to another league, they were required to change the requirements name.
  12. MRK
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    MRK - March 26, 2014 1:50 pm
    This hockey team's history is as bizarre as its current logo. Bloomington Thunder, with a picture of a train? Huh? The first boneheaded mistake was having the team bought and rebranded, when their brand was shaky (PrairieThunder) and the new name was bland at best (Bloomington Blaze, yawn). This alienated some folks (one of them being me) who had just started supporting the team, and even bought some merchandise. Then they moved leagues and didn't have ownership of the Blaze name, so they changed names AGAIN. How the heck can you expect people to show up, let alone become fans, when the team name itself keeps changing, let alone the players? Maybe I'll just have a pennant made with "HOCKEY" on it and wave it around in the stands whenever the next team from whatever league under whatever name plays in the Coliseum. Total train wreck (see what I did there?).
  13. ptfan
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    ptfan - March 26, 2014 1:14 pm
    You're wrong. It IS Butler's and Rogers fault, just as much as it is Holts. When you own something, you take responsibility. Your owners gave you something great and couldve cared less about Bloomington.

    The ONLY reason they bought into Bloomington is so that they could do what they're doing now. Pull out and then kick them out of the Coliseum.

    They are just as responsible for the demise as Holt is. They like Peoria so much, they need to go live there and get the heck out of Bloomington altogether.
  14. earlyriser54
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    earlyriser54 - March 26, 2014 10:58 am
    Lets get real about this hockey team controversy. When the House of Judy was ready to open and hockey was one of the big drawing card events ANYONE with half a brain would have realized a couple of things. First, the Peoria Rivermen are an established brand that is highly advertised and has a LOYAL TEAM FOLLOWING that has existed for 2 decades. Second and most important is that at the time Bloomington was forming a team the city of Danville had a team that was for sale. This team had been for sale for some time and I find it hard to fathom that no one seemed to grasp the concept that maybe central Illinois was not a hub for hockey. The Rivernmen have spent millions of dollars over the years in promoting and selling that brand and how anyone could possibly have expected to compete with that on a freshman level is baffling to say the least. Now look at what has happened. All these different owners, leagues, coaches, opponents, not to mention the hundreds of players who have filtered through the Bloomington franchise, how could anyone be expected to continue to support such a debacle? Hell even Cub fans with their never say die, loyalty would have a hard time supporting such a disenchanted franchise as this. Personally I blame the lack of success for the Coliseum itself solely on the shoulders of the lying public officials who voted for it, and most of all John Butler. He should have been gone long ago as he continues to rip off the taxpayers, fans, and supporters of the House of Judy. Personally I think once Butler and anyone affiliated with him is gone from the arena, and a two year hockey hiatus occurs, a comeback attempt may be successful at a minor league level. The way it stands currently what few fans there are stand to be the losers, along with the lousy team on the ice.
  15. redwings79
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    redwings79 - March 26, 2014 7:58 am
    The two franchises shared ownership yes but your team in Bloomington was ran for the most part by Mr Holt while Peoria was ran by Mr Butler and Mr Rodgers. Its not the two that built peoria's team into playoff contenders fault for the mess that had happened once again in Bloomington. Our owners hired 2 Ex rivermen players to be our coaches. People that understood what the fans in peoria expected, what it took to build a contender, understood what it would take to win, and had already been successful coaches with their previous team the Peoria mustangs. Meanwhile bloomington keeps Gratz who wasnt successful the season before and seemed to only care about how many penalty minutes his team could rack up during a game. Then he was let go, for good reason, and replaced by Panks. The fighting seemed to go down but he really didn't make any significant changes in order to improve the team. They stayed in last place the entire season and lead the league in PIMS, Minor penalties, Game Misconducts, 10 Min Misconducts & I believe tied for Match Penalties. Then add to the fact that nobody came to the games and you have the situation that you are presently in. There was very little advertisement via Tv or radio for the rivermen unless radio stations were giving tickets away to say caller #10 and besides the pieces done by Mr Eminian there really wasn't much newspaper advertisement. Peoria just happens to be a hockey town with a rich tradition.
  16. Davinci
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    Davinci - March 25, 2014 11:34 pm
    Jr hockey would be the best product on the ice since they opened! I would actually watch Jr. Hockey.
  17. Lost In Bloomington
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    Lost In Bloomington - March 25, 2014 9:17 pm
    It is time to get over the "Judy Dome" commentary, as it is old and worn out. The Coliseum has been here for eight years, and it time to accept the reality that it is not going anywhere.

    As for this most recent hockey fiasco, I put the blame firmly in the hands of the Ex-Thunder of the SPHL ownership group. Virtually no promotion via radio, television, or print media. All they appeared to worry about was building up the Peoria rivalry, and saving that team since it was "dumped" from the "elite" AHL. I said at the beginning when it was announced that they would own both Peoria and Bloomington, that Bloomington would be the "red-headed step child" of the two franchises. It turns out that I was sadly correct. I hope that those who "ran/owned" the ex-SPHL franchise in town can sleep well knowing that they saved hockey in Peoria ...

    I think when the next contract is up, CIAM needs to be given the boot, and a truly professional organization with no ties to anything or anyone in this area be brought in to run the Coliseum.
  18. SDog
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    SDog - March 25, 2014 8:50 pm
    So it's State Farm's fault that most sports don't succeed in B/N? What do the ISU, IWU, Country Financial, OSF, BroMenn, Mitsubishi and other company employees do with their spare time?

    And what are 4 years going to 150 baseball games mean?

    Your anger probably is the only thing that surpasses your narrow mindedness.
  19. observer123
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    observer123 - March 25, 2014 8:22 pm
    No matter what level of hockey they put in the Judy Dome, no one will care, and no one will go watch. Bloomington-Normal does not care about hockey, they don't care about Cornbelter baseball, they don't care about Edge football, heck they don't even care about ISU football and basketball. All the State Farmers are too busy getting their manicures before going to Biaggi's for dinner and wine every night, or running their 4 years to 150 baseball games during the summer.
  20. Hank Hill
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    Hank Hill - March 25, 2014 7:25 pm
    Could not disagree more. I will go watch a high level of Jr hockey before a league full of "professionals" whose best days are behind them. The Jr hockey league is expanding, they're obviously doing something right.
  21. perfume river
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    perfume river - March 25, 2014 7:14 pm
    We've only missed a couple games since the beginning, I was about to buy season tickets for next season but we WON'T be attending Jr. Hockey. 3 team names, 3 different leagues, 5 or 6 coaches, 3 years in last place - I think the failure is in the Coliseum management. Jr. hockey will board up that building for the winter. Shameful
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