With the purchase of the Peoria Rivermen, the Vancouver Canucks wasted no time in saying they wouldn't be using Peoria as their AHL base, leaving the area without a team and the Canucks looking for an AHL locale. However, with Peoria as a free agent, a market like that won't be without a minor league team for long....and they aren't.
It was announced that Peoria, who will use the name Rivermen-- a copy-written name of the city, and the Central Hockey League's Bloomington Blaze will join up with the "Single-A" Southern Professional Hockey League. Yes, two teams from Illinois will be joining the SOUTHERN Pro League for the 2013-14 season.
Of course, those not familiar with the SPHL can check out the "Better Know" piece I did as the NHL lockout happened. The odd part about this is not that both teams will be owned by the same people, but that these teams in the Midwest are looking at the SPHL as an option and hope that it could form a Midwest exile from the Central League, in hopes that Quad Cities, St. Charles, and other Midwest CHL teams will be disgruntled by the way the CHL is run and move over to that side of things.
The branching out of the SPHL is something that is good for the league perception, but at the same time-- if the finances of a "Double-A" league is in doubt when it comes to including a team from Brampton, Ontario; you can bet that the SPHL, a much smaller financed league, will have some teams be in possible trouble with the inclusion of more further travel.
(Unrelated, the Augusta Riverhawks won't play next season due to arena lease issues they have had.)
Whether or not this brings in more Midwest teams or expands the league or just alienates their founding franchises and the SPHL slowly turns into another Midwest based league like the United Hockey League or International Hockey League will remain to be seen. There's good ideas and bad ideas when it comes to all of this, but if nothing else; it shows a market like Peoria will go to anywhere to keep their team tradition alive and well, even if it does mean travelling through the Southeastern US.