PORTLAND, Maine — Portland Pirates officials joined Maine College of Art students Monday morning to unveil the hockey team’s 20th anniversary logo, celebrating an in-town partnership team leaders called emblematic of optimism they’ll be in Maine’s largest city for at least 20 more years.
The Pirates have represented Portland in the professional American Hockey League since 1993, but with their lease to play at the Cumberland County Civic Center expiring after the current season, rumors have in recent years bubbled about team officials considering a move. The most prominent of the rumors came and fizzled in 2010, when media outlets from Albany reported that the Pirates were eyeing a relocation to New York’s capital city.
But on Monday, Pirates CEO Brian Petrovek reiterated his confidence heading into talks with Cumberland County officials over the next several weeks that the team will secure a long-term deal to remain in Portland, and he said the recent collaboration with Maine College of Art is likely the first of many local partnerships to come for the team.
Voter approval in November of a $33 million countywide bond to renovate the civic center, Petrovek said, motivates the team to continue playing its games there.
Team officials are feeling optimistic enough about their future in Portland, he suggested, that they’re willing to roll out a 20th anniversary marketing campaign before a lease for that milestone season — 2012-13 — is in place.
Petrovek said Monday he recruited the downtown Portland art college — which occupies the historic former Porteous department store building overlooking the civic center — for help revamping the team logo for the big year instead of professional marketing firms he may have found in Boston or New York City.
Two teams of students under the tutelage of graphic design instructor Samantha Haedrich worked on competing schemes to pitch to the Pirates brass, Petrovek said, and the team was impressed by both. In the end, the Pirates chose one group’s silver-and-black variant of their standard “Salty Pete” logo, in which the mascot is clutching a black flag commemorating the 20th anniversary.
“When we visited a game, we were really inspired by the fans and the way they waved flags around, and that energy,” said student Paige Wojcukiewicz, a member of the winning team who joined Petrovek for the unveiling Monday.
The team CEO said the Pirates have already decorated promotional material for their upcoming season ticket sales push with the silver-and-black scheme — which temporarily exiles the squad’s traditional third color of red — and plan to use it for hats, T-shirts, pins, foam fingers and other merchandise in 2012-13.
“It has that energy and distinction that really hit the sweet spot,” Petrovek said.
Petrovek said Reebok representatives, who received the artwork so they could incorporate it into special home game jerseys for the forthcoming season, were surprised the team found such high quality without hiring a big-name firm.
“They said, ‘Where did you get this material,’” Petrovek recalled. “I said, ‘Right across the street.’ They said, ‘This is Madison Avenue stuff.’”
In return for the school’s work, Petrovek said the hockey team is helping build a library of design books current and future students will be able to use for their classes.
Haedrich said the exercise taught her students about developing a brand for a client, and college President Don Tuski said the success with the Pirates may help set the stage for future professional assignments for the art college community.
“People approach us all the time, but now we’re getting better organized,” he said. “[Petrovek] had the vision to see we had some talent right here at the Maine College of Art.”