( Above Photo Credit: SportsLogos. net )
By: Mark Allred Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
In early November of 2017, I was reading through one of my favorite minor-pro hockey websites and came across an interesting article at thesinbin.net website about the new East Coast Coast Hockey League franchise that’s going to start operations and return hockey to the Portland, Maine area. Cross Insurance Arena in downtown Portland hasn’t seen pro hockey since the American Hockey Leagues Portland Pirates departed in 2016. The article I read was written by Matthew Wiernasz and found it very interesting what was said from former National Hockey League player and now ECHL Maine Mariners Vice President of Hockey Operations Daniel Briere that can be seen below or HERE in the original article by the Sin Bin author Mr. Wiernasz.
( Above Photo Credit: wbrcae .com )
Just for the record, I reached out to the author of this article and editing manager for permission to use a portion of what was written as a continued conversation piece on my thoughts on the franchise moving forward.
PORTLAND, ME – The Maine Mariners will take to the ice in the ECHL for the 2018-19 season. The name was revealed back in September. Daniel Briere is Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Mariners and says the Mariners name reflects well on the area.
“WE’RE DEFINITELY EXCITED. THERE IS JUST A STRONG HISTORY OF IT AND WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO HOPEFULLY SOME OF THAT BACK,” BRIERE SAID.
Briere is no stranger to the Downeast coast of Maine, having played the first several years of his career with the Springfield Falcons (American Hockey League) and making frequent trips to Cross Insurance Arena. Briere says that when he played here, Cross Insurance Arena’s atmosphere was good, games were well attended by fans and it was a fun place to go play.
“WHEN YOU MOVE FROM BUILDING TO BUILDING, THE BEST PLACES ARE WHERE THEY HAVE FANS IN THE STANDS AND THAT WAS ALWAYS THE CASE HERE IN PORTLAND,” BRIERE SAID.
There has been a good push of people and fans looking for season tickets before the announcement thinking regardless of the team name, they are ready to support the new franchise and brand of hockey in the City of Portland.
The particular area of the that was most interesting to me was what Mr. Briere had to say at the end of the article and interview that got the wheels turning and racking my brain for over a month was what he mentioned below.
On Briere’s list of things to do before the puck drops at the Cross Insurance Arena in October 2018 is procure an NHL/AHL affiliation. Briere tells The Sin Bin the plan is to have discussions with a few teams as the season continues, but he believes it’s not something that is a must-have in the team’s first season. If they have the chance and makes sense, the team will jump on it but will evaluate all options first.
With reading what’s mentioned above I started to think about what the Boston Bruins organization is going to do when they’re current two-year agreement with the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators is over after the 2018-19 season and with Briere saying an affiliation is not an immediate necessity at least for the first-year of operation, its not hard to put two-and-two together and think about locating “AA” minor-pro prospects closer to where the B’s operations are in the New England area. Now, I have no confirmation or inside information but I believe that before the Bruins organization agreed to another Gladiators affiliation on February 15, 2017, the extension was brought on because a deal with the new ECHL franchise, the Worcester Railers wasn’t going to happen who began operations at the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign.
Now, I have no confirmation or inside information but I believe that before the Bruins organization agreed to another Gladiators affiliation on February 15, 2017, the extension was brought on because a deal with the new ECHL franchise, the Worcester Railers wasn’t going to happen. The Railers started playing as a franchise to begin the 2017-18 season and was heavily rumored that owner Cliff Rucker who is a huge Boston Bruins fan and current season ticket holder was going to make a pitch to not only bring professional hockey back to Worcester, Massachusetts after the San Jose Sharks relocated their top prospects and team closer in proximity. In fact, the now AHL San Jose Barracuda (formerly Worcester Sharks) are so close they play in the same arena as their apparent NHL club.
NHL franchises in the past have uprooted minor-pro teams on the east coast in an effort to save money and have players available within short travel time for immediate coverage instead of traveling a couple thousand miles. This can also be said for when a team like the Providence Bruins need to make a transaction from the ECHL Gladiators die to injury. Now, I understand the affiliated minor-pro leagues operate primarily on a weekend schedule sometimes playing three-straight games, middle of the week call-ups are easy but how about when you need them when in fact the team does play in the riggers of a packed weekend schedule?
Currently the only Boston Bruins prospect in the ECHL is third-round selection Dan Vladar who’s in his second season of professional hockey manning the crease with the Gladiators, so if an unfortunate injury happens at the AHL level with Providences Zane McIntyre or goaltender on-loan Jordan Binnington, Vladar is the guy that has to make the two-hour 1,042 mile flight to Rhode Island. I know that doesn’t seem like much but for a Providence team that spends a majority of its time playing in the New England area, to have a team closer would only benefit both sides greatly regarding cost and time.
I also believe without any confirmed reports or inside knowlege that a move like this could potentailly be an idea to stockpile even more propects than the one they currently have now in Atlanta. The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently doing this type of developing depth management with their ECHL affiliate the Orlando Solar Bears who are based in the state of Florida. An idea like this would be perfect in my opinion for the NCAA Men’s Hockey free agent signings and undrafted Canadian Junior players that the Bruins can place for easy access of scouting so close in proximity to take a more aggressive approach to the demoting and promoting players as they continue to evaluate.
Regardless of this article and it’s topic of what “could” become, I’m happy as a life-long New Englander that hockey is returning to the state of Maine after a long tradition that dates back to 1977 when the Philadelphia Flyers housed their top prospects or when the Boston Bruins came along and had their developing youth in the Pine Tree State in 1987. This is not only a positive move for the state of hockey but the City of Portland and it’s continued effort as one of the United States best places to live and it continued business growth.
( Above Photo Credit: Roaming The Rinks )
Speaking of business, how about ticket sales with the thought of a Bruins affiliate in the city and the accessibility of public transportation as Amtrax DownEaster Rail Line travels daily from North Station in Boston, Massachusetts making stops in Haverhill, Mass., Exeter, NH, Saco, Maine, and finally arriving in the City of Portland. the distance between the Portland Amtrax Train Station is a 2.3 mile Uber ride or a city bus ride that makes stops at the Arena every 20 minutes.
( Above Photo Credit: WBRC Architects – Engineers )