Monday, January 6, 2014

Peoria Prancers (IHL, 1983-84)

The Peoria Prancers, what an..."interesting" name. With the logo they had, couldn't the team name have been something like, I don't know, Stags or Bucks or even Chargers (see, it's charging...)? I'm sure fans of the other IHL teams at the time had some fun with this nickname.


1983-84 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
     The Peoria Prancers joined the IHL as an expansion franchise for the 1982-83 season. The Prancers were owned by Ken Wilson and played at the recently opened Carver Arena. In their first season, Peoria was dead last in the IHL. Their miserable 25-47-10 record was nine points behind the next two worst teams (Muskegon and Saginaw). The Prancers went through three different coaches in that forgettable first season.
     In Year Two, Peoria hired Pat Kelly as Head Coach. Wilson returned as General Manager. The Prancers had three NHL affiliates in 1983-84: Calgary, Chicago and the New York Rangers.
     The Prancers had another awful season, and only the horrific Muskegon Mohawks kept them out of the league cellar. Peoria finished the season with a 29-45-8 record. Their 66 points were 20 points ahead of Muskegon, but 17 behind Kalamazoo, who took the last playoff spot.
     Kelly's Prancers had the second-weakest offense in the IHL that season, scoring only 298 goals. They did have some weapons on offense, though. Ian MacInnis led the team in scoring, with 38 goals and 82 points. Mike Prestidge actually led the team in goals, with an even 40. Three other players had over 20 goals for Peoria that year. The defense struggled as well, allowing 392 goals, second-worst in the IHL. The Prancers went through seven goaltenders that season. Jeff Lastiwka made it into 39 games before being traded during the season to Milwaukee.
     Found this a few years ago on eBay. Pretty decent program for such a weak team. It has 64 pages, all black-and-white, and lots of ads, pictures and articles. I heard about this team and always got a good laugh about the nickname. Had to have this program when I first saw it online. Don't see too many Prancers programs (or anything, for that matter) for sale. 

  
Aftermath: The Prancers never showed a profit in their two-year existence, and came close to folding after the 1983-84 season. Instead, the Peoria Civic Center acquired the franchise in order to keep the arena's main tenant in town. A "Name the Team" contest was held during the off-season and fans chose the much tougher nickname "Peoria Rivermen". Even more importantly, the Rivermen became the primary affiliate of the NHL's St. Louis Blues. In 1984-85, the new Rivermen sailed to a 48-25-9 record, the best in the IHL. They then defeated the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the Turner Cup Finals to win the franchise's first-ever Turner Cup. The Rivermen would remain in the IHL through the 1995-96 season, then would relocate to San Antonio. Peoria would be part of the ECHL, AHL and, currently, the SPHL, and all of those teams have been called the Rivermen.



Sources:
Will it Play in Peoria? The Pittsburgh Press, August 3, 1984. (from Google News Archive)
IHL Statistics: 1983-84 (from HockeyDB.com)

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