Bruce Saurs, a former baseball and basketball coach, shifted gears dramatically in 1989 and saved professional hockey for Peoria.
With the Peoria Rivermen on the verge of leaving the local scene after a six-year run in the International Hockey League, Saurs came forward to purchase the team and led it through a six-year period of remarkable success during a time when the IHL was shifting from a middle-sized city league to one embracing some of the nation's largest population centers.
During the first six years of Saurs' ownership, the team won the coveted Turner Cup, the emblem of IHL superiority, in the 1990-91 season, won the Central Division and Eastern Conference in 1993-94 and the Midwest Division and Eastern Conference in 1994-95.
During its Turner Cup championship year, the Rivermen set a professional hockey record by winning 18 consecutive games. The team also set a record last year by winning 12 consecutive road games.
Under his ownership, many former Rivermen moved into the IHL, most with the St. Louis Blues.
Saurs was a highly successful businessman when he purchased the Rivermen and before that spent six years as head baseball coach and assistant basketball coach at Central High School. His baseball teams made two state tournament appearances during seasons when his Lions went 26-3 and 21-5. Long affiliated with baseball, Saurs played in the state tourney for Central in 1944.