As a night owl (not as bad as Mark LaFlamme, mind you), I tend to wake up a bit later than most. That’s just the nature of the job.
Anywho, I was sitting down to a brunch of cereal, a banana and an Englich muffin today, and the phone rang. It wasn’t that goofy ring I have in place when my wife calls, so I figured I’d actually get off my rear end and answer it this time.
Glad I did.
After receiving a news release from Josh Brown of the Eastern Professional Hockey League on Monday night, I put together a story, using that release and some comments I got when I called Colisee owner Jim Cain (I apologize, Jim, it was almost 10 p.m.)
Keep in mind, this EPHL idea was new to me, too, so I tried to call Brown back to get a bit more information. No dice.
But this morning, over cereal and bananas, Brown DID call me back. He actually confirmed to me that there are TWO markets in Maine that the league is looking at, and tht he has contacted them both. Lewiston, obviously, is one of them. The other? Augusta, and the Kennebec Ice Arena.
Wait a minute, some may say…How the heck is he going to put a pro team in THAT rink?
By adding seats.
According to Brown, they’ve spoken with Kennebec Ice Arena manager Casey Johnson, who’d already been thinking about the possibility of expanding seating. This expansion would need to be to the tune of 2,000 seats of so, according to Brown, which would be achieved by extending the back wall of the arena by some 45 feet.
Could be done, but that would be a LOT of work, considering the rink in Lewiston has 3,677 seats ready to go.
So that’s one piece of the conversation.
Brown was also very interested in a couple of other things, mainly the basic feeling among hockey fans in the area about the Maineiacs’ situation, and the MJAHL, which he’s of course heard may approve a relocation request to move a team to Lewiston.
This sets up a very interesting debate, one I know Jim Cain does NOT want to get in the middle of, but one that has surfaced, thanks to a reply to the story this morning at http://www.sunjournal.com.
David MacDonald, the gentleman attempting to bring the Charlottetown Abbies of the MJAHL, replied on the Sun Journal’ Web site, under the story comments:
“One at a time, I believe that I am getting the members of the Board of Governors on side…. to the point that if there was a vote today, I believe that there will be a team in Lewiston next year. I highly suggest that you not get caught up with the added excitement of a 4 team league that has been around since 2008, and has just 4 existing teams, while 3 have folded. I think that if we get sidetracked now and display and “wishy-washiness” and do not keep focused on the goal, and believe for one minute that the Leagues are “lined up” to replace the team that is leaving because (as word has on the street “a town that will not support their team”…. a previous owner’s words, not mine) then we will fail in our bid. I have asked for just one thing and that is the support of the citizens to try to convince the Board of Governors of the MJAHL to enable us to place a team in Lewiston for next season. As we go into this very important next few weeks, I need to be able to show that everything is in place, and that the citizens of Lewiston wish to be part of the rich 40+ year tradition of the MJAHL. It is them who need to be convinced….. not the other way around…..”
MacDonald went into a lengthy explanation at the Maineiacs’ message board at http://www.lewistonhockey.com/chat.
Brown, meanwhile, went on to say that he feels the caliber of play in the EPHL only stands to get better, as the league expands.
“I think the league would do well in Maine, and in particular Lewiston,” Brown said. “I think as the league expands, the caliber of play will go through the roof.”
He cited the fact that there are a lot of players from the northeast currently playing in other minor pro leagues that would be drawn back into the area.
Then, Brown had to run into a luncheon meeting. He said he’d call me back this afternoon, or tomorrow morning.
Hopefully not during breakfast.
Have fun digesting this one. At the very least, this could create some pretty active theater 🙂
Here’s a sneak peak at a story that will appear in the Sun Journal on Tuesday morning…
In a news release Monday, the Eastern Professional Hockey League announced five cities it had targeted as new markets for a New England expansion. One of those markets is Lewiston, pending the Maineiacs’ departure.
“With our economic model, even in hard times a team should at least break even,” EPHL commissioner Jim Riggs said. “And, more importantly, have a product to sell to potential expansion markets.”
Currently, the league operates in four locations — Danbury, Conn., West Orange, N.Y., Brooklyn, N.Y. and in the Hudson Valley. The EPHL is looking to expand to an eight-team league next season, and has targeted five locations, including Lewiston, for that expansion. Other locations include Exeter, N.H. and Marlboro, Foxboro and Hyannis, Mass.
And this isn’t even just the second league to get in touch with Cain.
“So has the Eastern Junior Hockey League and the Empire League,” Cain said. “We can only have one team in here, though, because more than that would take too much away from our growing youth program, and we have to keep that going strong.”
The Maritime Junior A Hockey League still appears to be the front-runner to occupy the building, though that league’s board of governors still needs to vote on the proposed move by the Charlottetown Abbies to Lewiston, a vote expected to come in the next three to four weeks, according to David MacDonald, who is purchasing the team with hoped to relocate to Lewiston.
All of this hinges, of course, on the Maineiacs’ next move.
For more on this story, turn to the Sun Journal on Tuesday morning. Crazy stuff.
I got a chance to speak with David MacDonald tonight.
For those folks who are not familiar with Mr. MacDonald, he is the gentleman from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia who is in negotiation to purchase the Charlottetown Abbies of the MJAHL and move them to Lewiston.
MacDonald met Sunday with a committee charged with recommending whether his bid to move the team should be forwarded to the MJAHL Board of Governors.
According to MacDonald, things went very, very well.
“We had a very good meeting,” MacDonald said. “It lasted more than two hours. There was no final decision out of it, but things were very positive. They asked some very good questions, and I feel like we answered all of them well. They seemed quite surprised with the level we went to, and with what we had to offer.”
MacDonald said the committee had some concerns about the travel costs and the distance other teams in the league will have to travel to play against Lewiston, especially considering many of the players in the league are still protecting NCAA eligibility. There were also some passport concerns, he said.
But MacDonald was confident his answers to those questions alleviated most of those concerns.
“The fact that a number of Division I schools have committed to do some recruiting out of the Lewiston rink has really helped us out,” MacDonald said. “One of the mandates of this league is to provide opportunities and exposure for our players. We have signed letters from Boston University, the University of Maine, UMass-Lowell and Quinnipiac among others, saying that they would regularly scout out of Lewiston.”
MacDonald said that the general feeling he got from the committee was positive.
“I was basically told that their responsibility now is to present this to the Board of Governors,” MacDonald said. “Their next scheduled meeting isn’t until April 23, but they will likely call a special meeting to deal with this. If they have to change the league’s constitution, they need to tell everyone three weeks in advance of a meeting. By Wednesday, we should know what’s happening.”
Until Wednesday, then, I suppose…