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PrairieThunder to name Booth

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John Butler, one of the owners of the Bloomington PrairieThunder minor league ice hockey team which begins its initial season in October at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum, enjoyed watching Derek Booth as a player for the Peoria Rivermen during the 2002-03 season.

Butler also has enjoyed following Booth's career as an assistant coach and player with San Angelo and as a head coach and vice president of hockey operations for the Fayetteville (Ark.) FireAntz in the Southern Professional Hockey League the last two years.

That's why it's no surprise Booth will be named the first head coach of the PrairieThunder during a news conference Wednesday, according to published reports from Fayetteville.

"I hate leaving Fayetteville, especially like this, but it's stepping up to a higher level," Booth told the Fayetteville Observer.

Butler said he would rather reserve comment on Booth's hiring until the news conference. However, he did say the 35-year-old Booth would fit nicely in the PrairieThunder's makeup.

"Derek's is a guy who gets along well with people and will be a great addition to our team," added Butler. "He was a very popular player with the fans in Peoria."

Booth, who could not be reached for comment Saturday by the Pantagraph, is a native of Niagara Falls, Ontario.

He was the Southern Professional Hockey League's Coach of the Year last season in his rookie campaign while leading his team to the playoffs.

During his time with the Peoria Rivermen, Booth served as team captain and liaison between the players, coaching staff and front office.

Booth started his playing career in 1987-88 with Cornwall in the OHL. He played in the OHL for six years before moving to Toledo in the ECHL. He also played with Phoenix in the International League, Adirondack and Rochester in the American Hockey League, South Carolina in the East Coast Hockey League and in Austria for four years.

In his two seasons as coach of the Fayetteville franchise, the team has posted a 63-43 record.

"Obviously I'm not excited but at the same time I'm happy that Derek has gotten an opportunity to advance," FireAntz general manager Kevin MacNaught told the Fayetteville newspaper. "They have a great new building and this is a great career move for him."

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