Ex-AHL Peoria owner blasts Blues over selling club, calls move ‘disgusting’

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Earlier today, we passed along word that the Vancouver Canucks had purchased St. Louis’ AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen.

Turns out the move isn’t sitting well with Peoria’s former owner.

Bruce Saurs, who owned the club for 19 years before selling to St. Louis in the summer of 2008, ripped the Blues and owner Tom Stillman (pictured) in speaking with Dave Eminian of the Peoria Journal Star.

Here’s what Saurs told Eminian:

“I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. They’ve been crap here for years and there was no sign they were willing to spend any money to market or operate the team.

“Stillman is supposed to be a billionaire, I thought. He could have left this team in Peoria forever if he wanted to. I talked to him myself, many times. He raved about how easy the drive was, and how he loved the building and the market and what a great player development situation it was for St. Louis.

“He lied. He could have left this team in Peoria forever. It’s just indifference.

“The whole thing is disgusting.”

The Rivermen have been St. Louis’ American League affiliate since 2005.

The Blues announced the sale on their website today, but said they were “unable to provide further details” out of “respect for the AHL’s approval process.”

It’s been speculated the Canucks will move the Rivermen to Abbotsford, a Vancouver suburb currently home to Calgary’s AHL affiliate.

Abbotsford has struggled to attract fans to watch the Flames’ farm team in a pro-Canucks market, with one notable exception: when Vancouver’s AHL team from Chicago is in town.

For now, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is only calling it an “exciting opportunity,” adding that the “purchase of the Peoria franchise allows us to take an important step and assume full control of our minor league development program.”

According to The Province, it’s possible the Blues could move their AHL program to Chicago and the Flames could end up in Utica, New York.