The Peoria Rivermen were born in 1982–83 in the old International Hockey League, operating under owner Ken Wilson as the Peoria Prancers. The franchise was taken over by the Peoria Civic Center in 1984, which held a contest with the Peoria Journal Star newspaper to rename the team. Rivermen was the winner. The IHL's Peoria Rivermen began operations for the 1984–85 season and won the Turner Cup in their first season. They were bought by Bruce Saurs in the summer of 1989 and he owned the club for 19 seasons. In 1996, the organization left the IHL and joined the East Coast Hockey League when the IHL franchise relocated to become the San Antonio Dragons.