Watch Hockey in Champaign, Danville, Springfield and Peoria
With franchises in Chicago and St. Louis, the National Hockey League attracts much of the attention of Central Illinois hockey fans.
But one needn’t travel far from Champaign-Urbana to see one of the fastest-paced sports played at a high level. Danville, Springfield and Peoria each host a hockey team of juniors, professionals or would-be pros, and the University of Illinois has a club team.
University of Illinois: It is not a varsity sport at the U of I, but the club team has a successful history and a popular following in Champaign, where the team competes at the UI Ice Arena.
Crowds can be raucous and rowdy, with college students creating a home-ice advantage envied by rivals. Single-game tickets are $5 for UI students, children ages 6-17, seniors, and Campus Recreation members; $10 for general public. (Reserved front row seating is $10-$12). It is not uncommon for games to sell out. Tip: earmuffs for the kids aren’t a bad idea.
Danville Dashers: The Dashers compete in the 10-team Federal Hockey League, a low-level professional minor league that does not have an affiliation with NHL teams.
Fans can get close to the action at the David S. Palmer Civic Center in Danville. The regular season concludes in early March, and single-game tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for military and $6 for children under 12. 2 and under are free on a lap.
There is fighting in the Federal Hockey League.
Springfield Jr. Blues: The Jr. Blues compete in the North American Hockey League, which features amateur players who typically are ages 16-21 and seeking to attract the attention of college coaches and NHL scouts.
The Jr. Blues play at the Franklin P. Nelson Recreation Center is a 2,100-seat multi purpose ice arena and recreational facility located in Springfield. Single-game tickets range from $8 to $10 with kids 12 and under admitted for $5 at any level. The season goes from September to April.
One important note for parents: Fighting in the NAHL is extremely rare.
Peoria Rivermen: Peoria has a long history with minor league hockey, with a team dubbed the Peoria Rivermen having competed in four different professional leagues. Since 2013, the Rivermen have been a member of the low-level Southern Professional Hockey League, which is based in the southeast and features some cool team nicknames like the Evansville Thunderbolts, the Huntsville Havoc and the Knoxville Ice Bears.
The Rivermen have a business agreement with the Chicago Blackhawks, but it does not include a player affiliation agreement, so you won’t see any future Blackhawks in Peoria. But the Rivermen will have Blackhawks giveaway nights and other promotions featuring the NHL team.
Single-game tickets for the Rivermen, who play at the Peoria Civic Center, range from $12 to $21.
There is fighting in the Southern Professional Hockey League.