Rivermen: Funeral for a Hockey Team

WMBD/WYZZ-TV - PEORIA, Ill. - It's a time for goodbyes for the Peoria Rivermen.

For the players and the fans.

"It's more diffcult for them," said Rivermen center TJ Hensick. "Most of us will play somewhere, we don't know where. They're going to be losing the game."

Sunday's 3-0 Rivermen loss to Milwaukee marked the end of 31 years of pro hockey in Peoria and the start of uncertainty. The Rivermen have been sold, will another team replace them?

"There's no place we'd rather be than here," said one fan. "But we don't want to see then go."

Another added: "It's a sad feeling. We've been coming here forever. It's part of our life."

The sale of the Rivermen also means the end of employment for team personnel like Katie Pogeman, who's been with the team for six years, longer than anyone in the team's front office.

"Sports is my life, it's what I've always wanted to do," said Pogeman, who oversees Rivermen client services. "The Rivermen was dream job."

Brendan Burke has been the team's radio announcer the past five seasons.

"When I got here, the intention was I'd leave for the NHL," said Burke. "Hopefully that still happens but at this point, it's uncertain where I'll be next year."

Rivermen fans gobbled up team merchandise, danced with the Ice girls, watched the Sunday's game alongside NHL scouts for perhaps the final time. All trying to soak up as many memories as possible.
And the players have memories, too.

"The city's been great," said veteran defenseman Jeff Woywitka. "We enjoyed it here. It hasn't sunk in yet."

For now, hockey at Carver Arena looks a lot like an empty net.

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