The Bloomington PrairieThunder were a minor league professional ice hockey team based in Bloomington, Illinois. They were a member of the Central Hockey League in the Turner Conference. The team was originally a member of the United Hockey League (later known as the International Hockey League) prior to its merger into the CHL in 2010. They played their home games at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
|City||Bloomington, Illinois, United States|
|Home arena||U.S. Cellular Coliseum|
|Colors||Blue, gold, silver, white|
|General manager||Jim Riggs|
|Head coach||Jason Christie|
|Media||WJBC-FM (93.7 FM)|
On September 12, 1999, John Butler and Mike Nelson, both of Bloomington, began formulating a plan to bring a minor league hockey team to Central Illinois. On August 18, 2004, ground was broken for the $37-million U.S. Cellular Coliseum, the arena that would become the home of the PrairieThunder. On September 20, 2005, the United Hockey League awarded Butler and Nelson a membership to obtain a franchise.
On February 1, 2006, a contest was announced to name the new hockey franchise and on February 23, 2006, the official name was announced. "PrairieThunder" refers to a train called "Prairie Thunder" that passed through Bloomington in its early history. On July 20, 2006, the PrairieThunder unveiled their team logo, which featured a charging bison smashing its hooves into a sheet of ice. The team's colors were navy, silver, old gold, and white.
- October 13, 2006: the PrairieThunder played their first game in franchise history, against the Muskegon Lumberjacks. They lost the contest 7-3.
- October 14, 2006: the PrairieThunder play their first home game, at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum, against the Fort Wayne Komets. This was also the PrairieThunder's first regular season victory, as they won the contest 4-2 before a crowd of 5,102. Andre Neic scored the first goal at the US Cellular Coliseum, at 4:20 of the first period.
- February 17, 2007: Trevor Baker records the first hat trick in franchise history.
- January 27, 2007: Largest crowd in team history, 5,488 (as of Mar. 26, 2009)
- Jan. 12, 2008: Rookie goalie Loic Lacasse posts first shutout in franchise history in 2-0 win over Port Huron at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
- April 5, 2008: The PrairieThunder establish a professional hockey league record at all levels by scoring four goals in a 35-second span, during the first period in a 9-4 win at Flint. Scoring the goals were Jon Booras, John Nail, Neil Clark and Brett Holmberg.
- July 12, 2008: PrairieThunder defenseman Rob Guinn was killed in auto accident in Iowa. This led the team to remember him on their jerseys and the ice during the 2008-2009 season.
- December 27, 2008: PrairieThunder center Don Parsons breaks the minor league career goals scored record by an American player with his 678th, passing Flint General Kevin Kerr.
- December 3, 2009: PrairieThunder re-sign Erie Otters forward Michael Liambas following his suspension from the OHL for severely injuring Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli.
- June 1, 2010: The IHL makes major announcement that the IHL-CHL will merge for the 2010-2011 season along with four other teams from the IHL (Fort Wayne Komets, Quad City Mallards, Evansville IceMen, Dayton Gems).
- April 28, 2011: After the PrairieThunder was swept in the first round of the Central Hockey League playoffs, team owner Tim Lieghton failed to contact the U.S Cellular Coliseum for a lease extension after their 5-year lease ended.
- May 23, 2011: East Coast investors Gary DelBuono and Sandra Hunnewell were approved of a new CHL expansion franchise that will play in Bloomington for the 2011-2012 season. They also announced that former PrairieThunder players would play for the new Bloomington CHL franchise. Former PrairieThunder General Manager Jim Riggs will also be the GM of the new CHL franchise in Bloomington. The new franchise will be called the Bloomington Blaze.
Season by season records
|2006-07||76||25||45||—||6||56||201||285||1392||5th, West||Out of Playoffs|
|2007-08||76||31||38||3||4||69||210||258||1711||6th||Out of Playoffs|
|2008-09||76||42||28||2||5||65||235||291||1418||5th||Out of Playoffs|
|2009-10||76||31||34||5||6||73||241||273||1864||5th||Out of Playoffs|
|2010-11||66||37||22||7||-||81||188||189||1212||3rd,Turner Conference||Lost in 1st Round|
The Bloomington PrairieThunder were featured in the April 21, 2008 edition of Sports Illustrated. This was because they set a pro hockey record for the fastest four goal spurt. It took them just 35 seconds to score 4 goals against the Flint Generals on April 5, 2008. This is faster than any level of pro hockey.
The team held a Name the Mascot Contest, sponsored by the Bloomington Pantagraph, to find a name for the mascot. Megan Fish, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Chiddix Junior High School, was the first of 12 individuals to submit the name Chip. The next most popular entry was “Boomer” which had seven submissions.
Chip the Buffalo made his first public appearance at the Open House and Public Scrimmage held by the PrairieThunder on Wednesday October 4, 2006, interacting with fans and signing autographs.
- "PrairieThunder team history". Bloomington PrairieThunder. Archived from the original on December 13, 2009.
- Bill, Shaun (December 27, 2008). "Don Parsons - 678". prohockeynews.com. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
- Staff reports (January 6, 2009). "Parsons waived by PrairieThunder". prohockeynews.com. Archived from the original on October 1, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
- "Liambas joins IHL following OHL ban for injuring player". The Sports Network. December 3, 2009. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
- Egenes, Mike (June 1, 2010). "Thunder in new league as IHL, CHL merge". pantagraph.com. Retrieved October 4, 2011.