ORONO, Maine — The Ice Breaker Tournament is a traditional opener for the college hockey season. It is usually held the first or second week in October.
The University of Maine will host the 2015-16 Ice Breaker Tournament at the renovated Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.
It will be a four-team tournament.
Mike Snee, the executive director of College Hockey Inc., which manages the event on behalf of the Hockey Commissioners Association, made the announcement on Tuesday.
“We’re very excited,” said University of Maine athletic director Steve Abbott. “This is such a great opportunity to showcase the state, Maine athletics and the University of Maine all at once.
“We have always drawn very well in Portland. We have a tremendous fan base. And we’re very pleased with the renovations that they’re doing in Portland,” added Abbott.
The Cumberland County Civic Center is currently undergoing a $33 million upgrade.
“The timing is good,” added Abbott. “It’s sending a message to the people that Maine hockey has a vibrant future ahead.”
The university presented College Hockey Inc. with a $75,000 guarantee and the university will also supply the transportation and the hotel rooms for the teams.
“We will share any profits with the [Cumberland County] Civic Center,” said Abbott. “We’re happy to be doing this but we’d also like to make a little money.”
Abbott also pointed out that “one of the great things about it is the games don’t count [toward the 34-game regular season limit under NCAA guidelines]. So it’s very attractive to teams.”
The games count on the teams’ records but not toward the 34 games allowed.
The other teams haven’t been selected but Abbott said administrators at College Hockey Inc. prefer to have teams from four different conferences.
First-year Maine coach Red Gendron said he was “very pleased” with the news and praised the school’s athletic administration for putting it together.
“They deserve the kudos. I can’t take any credit for it,” said Gendron.
“It’s great for our fans and alumni in the southern part of the state. I love Portland. It’s a great city to host an event like that in every way imaginable,” said Gendron. “I can remember going down there when I was an assistant at Maine [from 1990-93] and the building was full or nearly full and how enthusiastic they were about our team.
“And I don’t think it will hurt the economy in Portland that weekend,” quipped Gendron.
The Black Bears have traditionally played a regular season game at the Cumberland County Civic Center and they have had a lot of success there in recent years, going 12-0-3 in their last 15 visits. They are 9-0-1 in their last 10 and have averaged over 6,100 fans in the 6,733-seat facility during that span.
Gendron said he hasn’t had time to think about prospective teams for the tourney but he will work closely with the athletic department and College Hockey Inc. to put it together.
“I’m sure it will be a great field,” said Gendron.
It will be the 19th IceBreaker Tournament and it will be the fourth involving the Black Bears.
The Bears will be looking for their first IceBreaker championship.
The Black Bears hosted the 2001-2002 IceBreaker at Alfond Arena, beating Bowling Green 9-1 before losing to St. Cloud State in the championship game 6-2.
They played in the 2005-2006 tourney in Colorado Springs, Colo., where they beat the U.S. Air Force Academy 3-1 before bowing to Colorado College 3-2 in overtime.
This past season, they played in the IceBreaker in Kansas City, Mo., dropping the opener to Notre Dame 1-0 before topping Army 4-3 in the consolation game.
This coming season’s tournament will be held at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis and will involve Minnesota, Clarkson, Mercyhurst and New Hampshire. The 2014-15 IceBreaker will be at Notre Dame and will feature the Fighting Irish, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).
In a press release, Snee called Portland a “terrific setting” for the tourney and CCCC General Manager Steve Crane said, “Portland has a national reputation as a great hockey market and it will be exciting for our hockey fans to have the 2015-16 college hockey season open in Portland with this great tournament.”
Abbott praised Crane and his staff and UMaine associate athletic director Will Biberstein for their prominent roles in landing the IceBreaker.