Inductees Bruce Saurs, a former baseball and basketball coach, shifted gears dramatically in 1989 and saved professional hockey for Peoria.
With the Peoria Rivermen on the verge of leaving the local scene after a six-year run in the International Hockey League, Saurs came forward to purchase the team and led it through a six-year period of remarkable success during a time when the IHL was shifting from a middle-sized city league to one embracing some of the nation's largest population centers.
During the first six years of Saurs' ownership, the team won the coveted Turner Cup, the emblem of IHL superiority, in the 1990-91 season, won the Central Division and Eastern Conference in 1993-94 and the Midwest Division and Eastern Conference in 1994-95.
During its Turner Cup championship year, the Rivermen set a professional hockey record by winning 18 consecutive games. The team also set a record last year by winning 12 consecutive road games.
Under his ownership, many former Rivermen moved into the IHL, most with the St. Louis Blues.
Saurs was a highly successful businessman when he purchased the Rivermen and before that spent six years as head baseball coach and assistant basketball coach at Central High School. His baseball teams made two state tournament appearances during seasons when his Lions went 26-3 and 21-5. Long affiliated with baseball, Saurs played in the state tourney for Central in 1944.
Bruce Saurs, a former baseball and basketball coach, shifted gears dramatically in 1989 and saved professional hockey for Peoria.
Neve Harms Award
The Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame Neve Harms Award, formerly the Peoria Advertising and Selling Club's Annual Meritorious Service to Sports Award, was named the Neve Harms Award in 1966 and for a very good reason.
As Director of Proctor Recreation Center, Harms observed the need for all youths to experience participation in sports activities, and not just the few who excelled. He, therefore, adopted a firm policy which assured that all youths would have an opportunity to play in games of the various sports controlled by Proctor Center. This plan met with much success and certainly with acceptance by parents whose children became more interested in sport activities at Proctor and consequently made good use of their free time.
Neve carried through this policy when he was appointed Superintendent of the Peoria City Recreation Department which later became part of the Peoria Park District. In addition, he also developed a system of recognition for all youths so that each young person could feel good about his or her efforts.
This kind of interest in all youths regardless of ability came from a most competitive and outstanding athlete. Neve was a four-sport player at Manual High School and a three-sport letter winner at Bradley University. He was a member of the 1929 Manual High School State Championship Basketball team.
Awards prior to 1981 were offered through the Peoria Advertising Club, rather than the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame. We don't have biographies for these individuals. If anyone would be able to provide the bios that were written by the club at the time of the awards, we would very much appreciate receiving them for posting. We are also missing the Bruce Saurs' bio that was written in the 1991 Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame Banquet book, and we would like to receive it also. We are specifically interested in the bios written at the time of the awards, not more or less current. Please contact Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The first official Board of Directors meeting was held on October 14, 1979. Officers were elected. Early decisions determined that the Hall of Famers would be from the Greater Peoria Area; the name would be The Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame; its purpose would be to promote and encourage the many varied sports programs in our area, to share with the area the pride we have in the accomplishments of area athletes, and to honor those men, women and teams contributing to our enjoyment and rich sports history.
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