Former Rivermen defenseman Joe Schiller (right) greets Bruce Saurs on Opening Night last October as co-owner Bart Rogers (middle) looks on with a smile / Photo: Ron Johnson/Peoria Journal Star
A remembrance from Rivermen co-owner Bart Rogers:
My deepest thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Saurs Family in this time of loss.
Our community and the game of hockey have lost an icon and legendary figure. Many of us were touched by Bruce through hockey and we are better people today because of that.
Me personally, I had such a great relationship with him as a boss, friend and father-like figure. He taught me personally so much at such a young age both in and out of the business circle. He allowed me to operate one of his multi-million dollar properties on my own and I will be forever great full for that. I would not be in the position and stage in my career without that guidance and chance.
When I left the Rivermen after we sold the franchise to the Blues, many asked if I missed it. I always said, “for sure I miss it” - but the thing I missed most was my hour-long, 10 a.m. daily stop in conversation with Bruce about life. Our golf games, my kids etc. Then I would discuss something hockey related and trying to cut expense on our operating budget. He would always say….”IF you would just sell 3,000 tickets, you wouldn’t have to worry about those things and I would have to pay you even more than I am now!”
Bruce was THE FANS OWNER. He loved talking to fans at games, sitting in the stands, seeing little kids in their first Rivermen jersey, etc. He just loved being around the game!
He truly operated the Rivermen from day one for betterment of the community. His goal was to make sure Peoria was a great place to live and grow a family. He did that when most people would have looked at the ledger sheet and ran. He fell in love with the game and all the components of it, and the game fell in love with Bruce in return.
You never had to question if Bruce was feeding you a line. He ALWAYS TOLD IT AND SHOT STRAIGHT FROM THE HIP. I remember I would tell him a confidential thing about a league issue or change before a game and 15 minutes later, I would have the coach calling me, fans asking me and Peoria Journal Star calling…”WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THIS?. I would tell Bruce, “you can’t tell people those things or come out in press and say that.” He would respond, “it’s true isn’t it?!”
His pocketbook was lighter because of it from fines from all leagues…HA!
We always joked together about hockey. We both were “experts” and played zero minutes of hockey ever. We both loved scorers and goaltenders. He would always copy the Howe Sportsdata daily report and highlight the top scorers he liked, then go down to the coaches and ask about them. Even when the Blues owned the player’s rights and we had nothing to do with it.
He loved players that put the BISCUIT IN THE BASKET.
There are thousands of fond memories of Bruce I will cherish forever, but one that stands at the top is what we did together last year in Peoria. Taking a page from his book - about giving back more than you receive - those involved with keeping hockey in Peoria wanted Bruce to be acknowledged by his fans and city. Last year, seeing him so excited about being a part of Rivermen hockey again, spending time with Coach Trudel and asking for scorers was a blessing to see. Many around him said his spark was back and the man who wanted or needed little in the world had a purpose again to getting around.
We were able to give him his due on Opening Night and worked with the City of Peoria, and Peoria Civic Center, to proclaim every Opening Night moving forward as “Bruce Saurs’ Hockey Night in Peoria!”
Seeing the fans give him a standing ovation and his smile when watching former Rivermen players congratulate him on the video board was a night many die-hard fans will never forget. I know I won’t!
Games will never be the same without him sitting somewhere in the stands talking with fans, ushers etc. It will be tough on Opening Night this year to not see his smiling face come walking through the door saying, ”Bart, How the Heck are ya?”… or “There he is, the legend of Rivermen Hockey… Bart Rogers (Or whoever he saw first (insert name)).
WE ALL KNEW WHO THE LEGEND WAS and what he gave back to all of us around the game of hockey and city of Peoria. He will be truly missed, but never forgotten.
Rivermen organization and beyond share condolences