The St. Louis Blues today announced they have entered an agreement to sell their Worcester IceCats team of the American Hockey League to Peoria business leaders Bruce Saurs and Anne Griffith.
Saurs and Griffith announced they plan to move the IceCats’ operation for the 2005-06 season to Peoria, Ill., where the team would continue to operate as the Blues’ affiliate in the AHL.
Both the sale and the transfer are pending approval of the American Hockey League’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 as our AHL franchise owner in Worcester while maintaining our ability to monitor and develop our prospects,” said Mark Sauer, president and CEO of the Blues.
The Blues moved their primary minor league operation in 1994 to Worcester, and purchased the IceCats in 2001.
“Unlike 10 years ago, today the AHL has teams in Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston and Cincinnati, and Des Moines will join the league with Peoria in 2005,” Sauer said. “Therefore, travel will be efficient and rivalries will be certain to develop. That’s good for hockey and player development, and it assists our overall financial results.
“We will leave Worcester after this season with regret. Worcester is a terrific community. Bruce and Anne approached us and made a substantial offer to purchase the IceCats, and as a result we will be in a stronger position financially regarding player development.”
Saurs and Griffith currently own and operate the Peoria Rivermen in the ECHL. The Rivermen are the Blues’ current affiliate in the ECHL, and served as the Blues’ top affiliate in the old International Hockey League from 1989-94.
“Worcester can now turn its attention to getting a new team to play at the Centrum, hopefully by next year,” Sauer concluded.