It has been a model major-minor-league affiliation.
The Blues and Peoria Rivermen have worked together since 1984.
With the cities just 2 1/2 hours apart, players shuttle easily
between the teams and the Blues maintain a steady watch on their
The Blues have played in Peoria, Ill., the Rivermen have played
here, and the franchises share thousands of common fans. But how
much longer will the marriage last?
At the urging of new general manager and coach Mike Keenan, the
Blues have explored affiliation options with the American Hockey
League. Last week, the team sent a letter to Labatts Breweries
Ltd., which hopes to purchase a new franchise for Moncton, New
The Moncton Times-Transcript described it as a non-binding
letter of intent, a promise by the Blues to negotiate toward a
working agreement with Labatts should it land the team.
That assertion stunned the Rivermen. "Nothing would surprise
me," owner Bruce Saurs told the Peoria Journal Star. "But I have to
admit this is a shock."
But Blues President Jack Quinn said the letter merely boosted
the effort to bring the AHL back to Moncton. "That has nothing to
do with saying we're moving," he said.
Quinn said no affiliation move is planned. And if the Blues
ever do move, he said, it won't be to Moncton.
Several National Hockey League teams are concerned that the
International Hockey League has become a veteran-dominated
operation unfit for player development.
Rivermen general manager Denis Cyr is confident that the IHL,
which has 10 NHL affiliates, will continue prospering as a proving
ground. The most affiliations it could lose to the AHL next season
is two. The other AHL teams already have NHL affiliations.
"As far as a developmental team, this is what we've always
been," Cyr said. "We've developed players, coaches and trainers for
them. We've had a great relationship with the Blues. (Dave)
Roberts, the Laperrieres (Ian and Dan), Geoff (Sarjeant) . . . it's
going to be a quicker adjustment for them in the NHL than if they
come from the AHL."
Rolling On The River: On the ice, the Rivermen are dominating.
In a six-day span, they beat Cincinnati 5-4, the Soviet Wings 4-1,
Fort Wayne 5-1, Indianapolis 8-1 and Kansas City 3-2 to run their
winning streak to eight games.
For the Blues, the most encouraging aspect of that surge was
the play of Roberts, who finally found his scoring touch. The
former U.S. Olympian scored a hat trick against Indy, giving him 10
goals in his last 12 games.
Also notable in the surge:
- Sarjeant was 9-1-1 in December with a .906 save percentage
and a 2.91 goals-against average.
- Ex-Blue Ron Hoover continues to be one of the most valuable
two-way forwards in the league. His plus-minus rating is a
league-high plus 23, and he produced five goals and five assists
in his last five games, earning the IHL player of the week honor.
Oh, Canada! As 1995 arrived, the NHL was a fading memory -
another failed business shuttered by gross mismanagement and
needless labor strife.
But the youngsters played on. At the world junior hockey
championships in Alberta, star-studded Team Canada steamrolled to
the title. Several idled NHL players joined the national-team
lineups, giving the host team a monstrous advantage.
Blues defensive prospect Jamie Rivers scored the winning goal
in Canada's 7-5 victory over the Czech Republic before 19,465 fans
Saturday night in Calgary.
Rivers, the 63rd overall pick in the 1993 draft, gathered a
rebounding puck off the back boards and beat goaltender Michal
Marik to the far side.
"It's one of those plays where you're a hero or a zero," said
Rivers, who is starring this season for Sudbury in the Ontario
Hockey League. "It was like slow motion. …