Soundin' Off -- the lifeboat

Monday, November 20, 2006

Rumor No More: notes from the West

Soundin' Off's Western Conference correspondent, The Little Punk in Illinois, took a ride to Peoria for Saturday's game against Milwaukee. He filed this report:

The night was sultry.. No, wait, that's different.

The drive to the game last night was an interesting one as we tooled down I-55 -- yes, your eyes do not deceive you. I am Matt Fornabaio, AKA TLP, the Western Conference correspondent for Soundin' Off, reporting on the November 18th 5-4 OT win for the Peoria Rivermen over the visiting Milwaukee Admirals.

This is the part of the world where people can readily identify dents made by cattle on the INSIDE of a pickup bed; where one looks forward to a lot of snow, because that's when he and his drunken buddies go fishing off the back of his boat, towed around his backyard by a pickup driven by his wife; where an entire town in central Illinois is privately funding the construction of a rocketship which will transport the entire town's population to heaven.*

I wish I was joking about any of this.

So, from Interstate 55 we switched over to I-74, bringing us to the Illinois River Valley. This allowed us to look down on the vast city of Peoria. Immediately I thought, "Yikes! Topography!" In most parts of Northern / Central Illinois, you could watch your dog run away all day: It's that flat! Peoria, being similar in size and appearance to Bridgeport, really seemed out of place out here amid the cornfields and nuclear plants. I remember thinking: "I would like to see this town in the autumn."** Surely they must have a hockey team!

Have one they do! The Peoria Rivermen, two time Turner Cup champions and one-time Kelly Cup champs, have been skating as a St. Louis minor-league affiliate for quite some time, and have just recently joined the AHL after a long-time with the IHL and a stint with the ECHL. At this particular game, the team was wearing throwback jerseys from their 1984-85 Turner Cup winning season. The jerseys were auctioned off after the game for charity, something that the Rivermen apparently do with some frequency. Walking through the arena, I saw Christmas jerseys, Halloween jerseys, psychedelic tye-dyed, disco jerseys, and even a chrysanthemum-encrusted Independence Day jersey! I suppose charity really does begin at home.***

The Peoria Civic Center, home to the aforementioned Rivermen, is actually a rather nondescript building from streetside, simply because from the parking garage, one is looking at the back of the Carver Arena. The actual Civic Center is quite nice and is currently undergoing a big renovation to include a museum and bigger administrative offices. It's just not quite visible from the street! The arena serves as home for the Rivermen, as well as for the Braves of Bradley University.

The place was cozy, looking smaller than it actually is. Walking in, I wasn't sure if I was there for a hockey game or a swim meet. The strange hexagonal layout of the arena, coupled with the high concrete walls, made me want to reminisce about other old barns like the New Haven Coliseum or the old Hersheypark Arena, but I was reminded more of the old War Memorial in Charlestown. This is not really a bad thing.

The ice crew proved to be as entertaining as the game itself, as one of the squeegee fellows slipped and fell, exposing his backside to the crowd, followed by an unbelievable third period startup during which the on-ice officials ordered all players off the ice to allow the Zamboni drivers to try again. (After this, Peoria netminder Marek Schwartz attempted to move a goal net, which the crew had forgotten about in the far corner.)

Peoria skated out during introductions through the now-commonplace inflatable mascot-arch thing. The image of Captain Crazy, the Rivermen's mascot, graced the top. Captain Crazy looks like a cross between the Gorton's Fisherman, Fred Flintstone, and the guy from American Dad.

Some fun notes about the evening:

--The people sitting behind me, in Peoria and St. Louis jerseys, rooting for Milwaukee.

--The Commerce Bank Blimp, which flew through the arena during intermissions, which reminded me of that little blimp they had at the Whalers games.

--The guy with the T-Shirt cannon, who aimed several shots at the Commerce Bank Blimp and hit it once.

--Talking briefly with Dave Eminian without knowing who he was at the time.****

--Announced attendance of 4193, and realizing the guy who drove lives in a town with a population of only 200 more than that.

--Trois Etoiles: 3) 29 Charles Linglet, Peoria; 2) 23 Trent Whitfield, Peoria; 1) 25 David Backes, Peoria

--Three Stars were announced over Madonna's "Lucky Star"

--The goal lights stopped working during the second period. Goal judges had to wave towels to signal a goal.

--The usher asking me why the game was over. "There's still time on the clock!"

--Dave Baseggio and Lane Lambert, Peoria's head coach and Milwaukee's assistant coach respectively, once shared a bench in Bridgeport.

--Peoria's normal mascot, Captain Crazy, was not in attendance, making way for the mascot of the 84-85 season: Buddy. Buddy looks like Todd McFarlane's image of Alvin the Chipmunk, but he is apparently a beaver.

--"It's time for an Ameren Power Play!!" Ameren being the local energy company. It took me halfway through the game to realize he wasn't saying "ADMIRALS power play".

Trent Whitfield drew first blood for Peoria with an unassisted goal at 35 seconds. Milwaukee tied and eventually took a 2-1 lead to end the second period, and after a hard-hitting, fast-paced third period, the teams were tied at four. Peoria's David Backes scored 2:41 into the overtime period, giving the Rivermen the win.

In all, a very good trip. I look forward to another jaunt some other time, but for now, I'll have to live vicariously through the (far) better writer in the family. So, until I make it out to Omaha to see whatever the heck an Ak-Sar-Ben Knight is, This is TLP, Soundin' - - - er - Signing off. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

* - Non-residents are escorted to the town's limits at 8 p.m.
(Ed. note: This has not been independently confirmed but is way too good to take out.)
** - "A Mighty Wind"
*** - Ba Dump Bump
**** - http://www.pjstar.com/php/index.php?/eminian


  • TLP- great job! Nice to hear about Peoria. And you are a good writer as well. Thanks for the tidbits. The good old towel waving for a goal...been there!

    By Anonymous stan, at 9:34 AM  

  • Great job TLP! Enjoyed reading about Peoria. Many of us still miss Dave as our coach but I have heard from someone who talks to him on a regular basis that is really enjoying himself out there. Thanks for the tidbits.

    By Anonymous Lori, at 11:22 AM  

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