One of the men who originally brought the Pirates minor league hockey team to Portland is behind a plan to bring the sport back to Maine’s largest city, multiple media outlets reported Wednesday morning.
Godfrey Wood, a Falmouth resident and longtime head of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, told The Forecaster he’s partnering with Pirates Hall of Famer and Chief Operating Officer Brad Church to bring an ECHL hockey team to Portland for the 2017-2018 season.
The announcement comes less than a week after Portland city officials abruptly learned the Pirates are being purchased by an investor group in Springfield, Massachusetts, and moved to that city.
Portland NBC television affiliate WCSH 6 also reported the news, and confirmed the new team will take on the Pirates name, logo and branding.
The Pirates have represented Portland in the American Hockey League, a minor league of the National Hockey League, since 1993, when Wood and partner Tom Ebright brought the franchise here from Baltimore to replace the former Maine Mariners, who left after the 1991-1992 season.
The ECHL, formerly the East Coast Hockey League, is also something of an NHL minor league, with all but five big league teams having ECHL affiliates. The ECHL is generally considered the equivalent of a Double-A minor league baseball team, like the Portland Sea Dogs, whereas the AHL is considered the Triple-A level, like the former Old Orchard Beach-based Maine Guides.
In the aftermath of the announcement the AHL Pirates would be relocating to Springfield, Church told local ABC television affiliate WMTW that the costs of operating an AHL team in Portland were outpacing the revenues.
But in announcing the arrival of a new team, Church told The Forecaster the ECHL offers a more sustainable business model, with more controls for operating costs and player contracts.