PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Pirates professional hockey team late last week announced a series of leadership moves, consolidating authority under new majority owner Ron Cain and bringing back one of the team’s former greats to oversee day-to-day operations of the club.
Under the restructuring, Cain moves into the team’s CEO position, replacing previous majority owner and CEO Brian Petrovek, dropping the man who for years was the face of the franchise down another notch on the club’s ladder.
The shift follows a tumultuous six months for the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, and continues the perceived trajectories of Cain and Petrovek after the club’s recently resolved tussle with the management of its home arena.
Petrovek, who will now serve as the team’s less-visible president of business development, was at the helm in September when the Pirates sued the Cumberland County Civic Center over an impasse in talks to renew their lease.
Cain replaced Petrovek as majority owner in early December, quickly announced the team would drop its lawsuit and returned to the negotiating table with Neal Pratt, chairman of the civic center trustees.
The two sides reached an agreement on a new five-year lease deal by late January, and Cain pledged he and the team would renew efforts to win back fan affection after the potentially damaging public dispute.
Cain said the front office restructuring, in which Pirates Hall-of-Famer Brad Church will return to the team as chief operating officer, is part of those efforts. The fan favorite Church, a former first-round NHL draft pick who spent six years on the development team in Portland, will become the new “face” of the franchise, Maine Hockey Journal reported.
“This management reorganization represents an important step in the company’s renewed focus on strengthening relationships with customers, growing revenues across the board, and in retooling our brand locally with our fans,” Cain said in a prepared statement, according to the journal.
The Pirates have spent the current season playing home games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston after talks to renew their lease with the Portland-based civic center broke down over the summer.
The team had sought to gain a share of the Portland arena’s concessions and advertising revenues for the first time in its two-decade history during negotiations last spring and summer, but the team later learned it couldn’t profit from alcohol sales under state law because it didn’t have the appropriate liquor licenses.
The Pirates and civic center trustees then clashed over how much in additional food and advertising revenues the team should receive to make up for the lost share of alcohol sales, among other points of contention.
To help resolve the stalemate, Maine Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, submitted a bill to allow venues to share alcohol profits with sports franchises.
As part of the new lease deal, which was approved by the civic center trustees last week and subsequently signed by team officials, the Pirates will get 57.5 percent of the concessions revenues, including alcohol sales.
Under the leadership restructuring, Lyman Bullard remains the team chairman and its representative on the AHL’s board of governors.
The Forecaster contributed to this report.