Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Not Sure About This Jersey

Bruce Saurs, the longtime owner of the Peoria Rivermen, passed away on July 10 at the age of 88. Mr. Saurs purchased the franchise on July 1, 1989 after the team suffered a $1 million loss as an IHL team, and he never looked to sell from that point on. There were highs and lows in the history of the Rivermen, but the one constant was in the owner's box as Mr. Saurs never once considered selling the franchise he rescued. He was an icon in a city whose hockey franchise put it on the map.

Losing Mr. Saurs affected the community, the players, and the staff that had seen the owner bring championships to the Illinois city. Under Mr. Saurs' watch, the Rivermen posted a pro hockey record 18-game winning streak in 1990-91, won the 1991 Turner Cup, and he facilitated a deal to be the St. Louis Blues' primary and exclusive farm team - the first such deal for an IHL team. He was a pioneer in the minor-pro hockey scene, and his legacy will not be forgotten in Peoria.

To honour the man who kept hockey in Peoria through the IHL, the ECHL, and the SPHL, the Rivermen will hold "Bruce Saurs Hockey Weekend in Peoria" on the opening weekend of the SPHL season on October 24 and 25 against the Huntsville Havoc. The Rivermen will wear special jerseys to honour Mr. Saurs, and they will look like the following image.
Now, you might be looking at that sublimated image on the uniform and asking, "Who is that?" That image is the Peoria Journal Star's picture of Saurs drinking from the IHL's Turner Cup during the 1990-91 season. That's a great memory to immortalize when speaking of Mr. Saurs, but I'm not entirely sure it should be worn on a jersey. That just seems a little creepy to me.

There's no doubt that without Mr. Saurs' vision and dedication to the Rivermen that this franchise may not even exist today. He legitimately deserves to be remembered for his legacy in the city of Peoria. However, this memorial jersey seems a little tacky.

I don't know - maybe I'm way off on this one. Maybe this is an appropriate memorial for the man who kept professional hockey alive in Peoria. Maybe this is the best way for a man who loved the game to be remembered by the players and fans who loved the team he kept in Peoria. Maybe I just don't know what is appropriate when honouring the memory of a man who did so much for his community.

Personally, auctioning off these uniforms after the game is nice, but the gesture would be so much greater if the team had decided to give a portion of the proceeds to Mr. Saurs' favorite charity. However, that's not mentioned in the press release, so the team is profiting directly off Mr. Saurs' passing. Sorry, but that is simply wrong to me. Some may say it's the last act of giving to the team he loved so dearly, but it just comes off as wrong in so many ways.

Rest in peace, Mr. Saurs. You were a dedicated hockey man who gave a community professional hockey when it appeared that they were going to lose their team. No one will forget your contributions, but it seems like you deserve more from the team to which you dedicated your life.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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