PEORIA — I'm going to think about Grant Rezansoff this weekend when the Peoria Rivermen host Pensacola in a pair of games at Carver Arena.
How assists just seemed to pour out of the slick center wearing No. 8 on that same Carver Arena ice more than 30 years ago.
Back then, he was an elite young player in the International Hockey League. The Peoria franchise, now 38 years along, was then in its infancy, just four seasons old. The hockey writer, in his rookie season of 1985-86, was welcomed under the player's wing.
Rezansoff is gone now. The Rivermen Hall of Fame inductee died Saturday at age 58 in his home in Red Wing, Minn. He is survived by his wife, Kelly, daughter Kelsy and son Alex among a large, loving family.
"I loved having him as a teammate," said Rivermen Hall of Fame winger and now Peoria City Council member Denis Cyr, who played with Rezansoff in the 1986-87 season. "We had a poor team that year, missed the playoffs. But Grant and I were the forwards on the No. 1-ranked penalty kill unit in the league. He took great pride in that, and so did I.
"Later on we took real estate classes together at ICC. He was a family guy, he liked Peoria and he always had a smile on his face."
Rezansoff was a pioneer of sorts, in that he was a charter member of the Peoria's first pro hockey franchise — then called the Peoria Prancers — who came to us in the IHL.
He scored 23 goals and added 42 assists in 49 games in that 1982-83 season.
He followed that with a 1983-84 Prancers season in which he scored 36 goals and 46 assists in 82 games.
The Peoria franchise changed its name to Rivermen after that, and Rivermen coach and GM Pat Kelly traded Rezansoff and Steve Harrison to Toledo before the 1984-85 season — getting Rick Hendricks and Mark Botell, two players who put Peoria over the top for a championship in the IHL.
"Of all the trades and player moves I ever made in my career, that one was the toughest," said Kelly, now ECHL commissioner emeritus, on Thursday. "Grant was not a guy we wanted to lose, but Toledo would not make the trade without him in it.
"We got him back the next season. He was such a good kid to coach, so dedicated to the game and always prepared. We are saddened to hear he's gone."
Rezansoff returned to play three seasons with the Rivermen in 1985-86, 86-87 and 87-88 and piled on another 81 goals, including five in the playoffs, to rein as one of the top players in the franchise's history.
All told, he scored 140 goals (fourth all-time) for the Rivermen with 226 assists (third) for 366 points in 389 games (fifth) in parts of five seasons.
He won the Pete BardezBanian Trophy (Most Popular Player, voted on by the booster club) in 1988.
He was named to the Greatest 25 Rivermen Players Team in 2006-07 on a vote by fans from a list of candidates generated by the Rivermen and Journal Star to celebrate the team's 25th season.
And he was inducted into Rivermen Hall of Fame in 1994.
Rezansoff liked Peoria and stayed well beyond his playing career, managing a Kroger store in East Peoria. He was among many teammates from that era — guys like Cyr, Brad Kempthorne and Bob "The Hammer" Fleming — who played here and started businesses and families here after their hockey careers.
In later years, up in Minnesota, Rezansoff coached youth hockey in Red Wing, kicked back at the family's cabin in Jewel Lake and rooted for the Seattle Seahawks.
But he will always be a part of the Rivermen family here.
The Rezansoff family has scheduled a celebration of his life for March 21, from 4-8 p.m., at Mount Frontenac Golf Course (32420 Ski Rd., Frontenac, Minn.).
In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the River Bluff Humane Society. Online condolences may be left for the family at www.mahnfamilyfuneralhome.com
The Rivermen signed winger-center Drew Doyon on Thursday. He just finished a college career where he was captain the last three seasons for Aurora University and scored 26 goals with 36 assists in 89 career games. ... Called-up Rivermen defenseman Theo Calvas, who was released by ECHL Tulsa on Wednesday, had his potential return to Peoria delayed when ECHL Florida claimed him on waivers Thursday. ... Pensacola comes into Carver Arena having lost 14 of its last 17 games. Nine of those came after regulation.
Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen and Chiefs for the Journal Star, and writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.