Maine Hockey Journal

Junior hockey coming back to Lewiston

TimberwolvesPORTLAND – Junior hockey will be returning to the city of Lewiston this fall.

The Maine Timberwolves of the Northern States Hockey League have agreed to play its home games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee for the 2014-’15 season and beyond.

With the Timberwolves calling the Colisee home, the Portland Junior Pirates have opted to have its USPHL Premier team play the upcoming season at its home facility, the MHG Ice Centre, in Saco. The Junior Pirates had planned to move its premier team to Lewiston for the upcoming season, but logistically it never made sense because the players were not going to live or go to school in Lewiston.

“It was never going to be an ideal situation,” said Junior Pirates GM Brad Church. “I think fans would have enjoyed the caliber of hockey, but logistically we wanted our players closer to the main facility in Saco. The one thing that we couldn’t provide was allowing players to engage in the community. They weren’t going to go to school there. They were going to live there. They would only play the games. I think for both us and the Lewiston community it wasn’t a perfect match and they deserve better.”

Jim Cain, President of Firland Management, owners of the Colisee, said they’ve been contact with Ron Cain, owner of the Junior Pirates and the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates, who recommended they seek out a potential tenant who could meet the community requirement.

Jim Cain feels the Timberwolves provide Lewiston with such a component.

“The important piece of this was that we have a complete hockey organization where the players will live and be housed in the community,” said Cain. “That makes sense of so many levels between the user of the facility and us as the owner.”

Church agrees having a team committed locally will provide the best opportunity to become Lewiston’s team.

“This new group will have the chance to make it Lewiston’s team,” he said. They’ll house their players, school them there and be involved in the community. That was the connection with the Maineiacs off the ice and they’ll be able to provide that. It’s a much better fit for Lewiston and community as a whole.”

The Lewiston Maineiacs called the Colisee home for eight seasons before being purchased by Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and dissolved in the summer of 2011.

The Timberwolves are owned by Jeff Dupere, who will also be the team’s GM and head coach. Dupere purchased the team from Ben Gray, who operated the franchise under the Maine Moose organization, playing the team’s home games at the Bank of Maine Ice Vault in Hallowell. The Moose will still operate its youth program at the Ice Vault, while Dupere rebranded the junior program to the Timberwolves.

Dupere worked for the Moose prior to purchasing the team, working as a strength and condition coach. This will be his first endeavor as a head coach for a junior program, but he’s confident that the team will be competitive when they hit ice in the fall.

“I spent this past season working with the Moose and training them and I really enjoyed watching them grow and working with them,” he said. “I’m excited to bring my philosophies to the game and my expertise in training off and on the ice. I’m excited to work with this age group and turn them into better young men and better hockey players.”

The NSHL is a Tier III Jr. A league that is sanctioned by AAU –Amateur Athletic Union – verses the Jr. Pirates, which is USA Hockey sanctioned. The league primarily focuses on players aged 18-to-20-years old that have finished playing at the high school or prep school level and are getting ready to move on NCAA collegiate hockey. The majority of the players that have played in the NSHL have gone on to play in either NCAA Division II or Division III.

The NSHL have expanded this season to a 12-team league this season with franchises based in New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The league has another Maine team, the Maine Wild, which is based in Biddeford. Dupere said he expects the team will play a 43-game league schedule with as many as 12 non-league games or showcase events.

While the Timberwolves are not at the level of the Maineiacs, Cain said that he has experience with the NSHL due to his relationships with franchises that are tenants in other arenas that are managed and owned by Firland. He is confident that the community will attach itself once they get familiar with the league.

“This will become good hockey,” said Cain. “There’s a lot of Tier III Jr. Hockey being played in the United States. There are 16 leagues and I like the approach that this league is taking in terms of player recruitment. They’ve developed a way to bring European players into the mold and find a way for players to go school and combine athleticism with academic skill. That’s something attractive to many Division III schools.”

Cain noted that because the Tier III hockey is considered pay-to-play, it allows flexibility in developing a plan to attract fans to the Colisee that might not have been otherwise possible. The AHL Pirates played last season at the Colisee with average ticket prices ranging from $12-$14. Cain said he envisions a price point that would see adult tickets cost roughly eight dollars, while a senior/youth ticket would price for about six dollars.

“Obviously, this is a pay-to-play league,” said Dupere. “That will support the organization. We want fans in the stands, not only from a business perspective, but for the kids who are playing. We want them to see fans in the stands and have something to play for. We plan on being very active in the community and working to build a great relationship with the city of Lewiston and get the fans to want to come out and watch us play.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login