|Bloomington Blaze offers unique entertainment|
|Written by Todd Marver, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Monday, 31 October 2011 15:39|
The Bloomington PrairieThunder organization experienced a series of highs and lows at the conclusion of its 2010-11 season.
The PrairieThunder earned their first playoff appearance in franchise history, but after the end of the team’s first-round playoff series loss to the Fort Wayne Komets in the Central Hockey League playoffs last April, the team members learned the organization failed to renew its lease with the U.S. Cellular Coliseum and the PrairieThunder was no more.
It quickly became apparent there would still be a minor league hockey team in Bloomington, however.
The new franchise was approved May 23, to be led by owners Gary DelBuono and Sara Hunnewell. It was announced July 13 that the new team would be called the Blaze, and general manager Jim Riggs and head coach Jason Christie would stay on to lead the new hockey squad in Bloomington.
“We reached out to the community to start asking people their [team name] choices through a variety of methods such as Facebook, WJBC Radio and talking to people in the community,” Riggs said. “We whittled the larger list down to three names and ended up choosing the Blaze.”
However, Christie stepped down Aug. 23, while Riggs resigned Sept. 21. As announced on Sept. 23, Paul Gardner now takes on both roles for the Blaze, as director of hockey operations and head coach of the team.
Fans of the now-defunct PrairieThunder will see some familiar players, as the Blaze kept seven of the players in Bloomington including: defensemen Travis Granbois and Aaron Dawson, forwards Jason Dale, Jon Booras, Karl Fournier, Brodie Sheahan and goaltender Marco Emond.
“We are still going to keep working and try and bring back as many guys as we can,” Christie said.
The Blaze compete in the Central Hockey League, as the PrairieThunder did last season. In the Thunder’s first season of existence in 2006-07, they competed in the International Hockey League.
In the three seasons following, the organization competed in the United Hockey League, before it merged with the CHL for the 2010-2011 season.
The Blaze now plays in the Turner Conference of the CHL, which includes: Fort Wayne, the Dayton Gems, Quad City Mallards, Missouri Mavericks, Rapid City Rush and Evansville IceMen.
The Blaze played their first-ever game at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in an exhibition contest Oct. 16 in a 2-0 loss to Evansville. But Bloomington opened its regular-season slate at home Oct. 22 against Dayton and earned a 5-4 victory in overtime.
There are 10 home contests remaining for the Blaze in 2011 and all games begin at 7:05 p.m. The squad takes the ice Nov. 19 against Dayton.
A special appearance will be made by Disney Channel star from “Shake It Up” Zendaya Coleman and there will be autographs from 6 to 9 p.m. In addition, the Blaze has a promotional team called the Blaze Beauties that appears at all home games.
The Blaze returns home for the weekend of Nov. 25 and 26 to face Dayton and the Allen Americans, respectively. Bloomington opens the month of December at U.S. Cellular Coliseum to face Evansville on Dec. 1.
The Blaze has a two-game homestand on Dec. 9 and 10 to play Fort Wayne in the first game and the Tulsa Oilers in the second. The squad returns to U.S. Cellular Coliseum the following weekend, Dec. 16 and 17 to face Dayton in both contests.
The Blaze hosts their final two games of 2011 on Dec. 23 and 30 against Tulsa and Missouri, respectively.
The rest of the Blaze’s schedule can be viewed on their website.
At the season’s end, eight teams will qualify for the CHL playoffs with the four teams with the highest point totals from each conference in the league, Turner and Berry, making it.
Student single-game tickets cost $9 and all Blaze games, home and away, can be heard on WJBC.