Maine Hockey Journal

AHL approves sale and relocation of Portland Pirates to Springfield Hockey, LLC

The American Hockey League’s Board of Governors announced on Monday that they unanimously approved the transfer of ownership of the Portland Pirates to Springfield Hockey, LLC.

The Board of Governors also approved the relocation of the franchise to Springfield, Mass., beginning with the 2016-17 season.

“This is a great day for our organization, for the City of Springfield and for the entire region,” said Frank Fitzgerald, attorney for the ownership group.

The city of Springfield has been looking for a replacement since the departure of the Springfield Falcons on April 19 when owner Charlie Pompea sold the team to the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. The league approved the sale to the Coyotes two weeks ago, and the relocation to Tucson, Arizona was finalized on Tuesday when the Tucson City Council and Coyotes agreed to a 10-year lease to play at the Tucson Convention Center, beginning next season.

Tom Ebright, who was an investment banker from Maryland and owner of the Baltimore Skipjacks, brought AHL hockey back to Portland in 1993 after a one-year hiatus following the Maine Mariners departure to Providence, Rhode Island.

The Pirates would win the Calder Cup championship in their inaugural season in Portland.

Last season, the Pirates finished 29th out of 30 teams in league attendance, averaging 3,363 fans per game, up nearly 400 fans per game compared to the prior season when the team was last in league attendance. Springfield finish with the league’s worst attendance last season, and has not averaged over 4,000 fans since 2002-2003.

The Pirates were the affiliate of the Florida Panthers last season. The Panthers and Pirates announced a four-year affiliation agreement at the start of the 2015-16 season.

The Panthers will remain with the franchise, signing a multi-year affiliation agreement with Springfield Hockey, LLC of the American Hockey League to serve as the Panthers AHL affiliate.

“We are very pleased to announce this affiliation with Springfield,” Tallon said. “Springfield is a hockey town with a rich history and we’re looking forward to a great relationship with the city and ownership group.”

Florida Assistant General Manager Eric Joyce will serve as general manager in Springfield. Joyce will oversee all matters related to the club’s minor league hockey operations.

“Springfield is a Charter Member of the American Hockey League and a proud hockey market where the fans will give our players the support and encouragement they need to develop into National Hockey League players,” Joyce said. “That being said, development is incumbent upon winning, and therefore, our roster will include exciting players from top to bottom that will compete hard and win as many games as possible for the great fans and city of Springfield.”

Former Pirates Chief Operating Officer Brad Church and former managing partner Godfrey Wood are currently in the process of bringing an ECHL franchise to Portland. The team would be called the Pirates and use the logo and team colors from the original season.

Church said he’s currently engaged in discussions with the Cross Insurance Arena trustees about a new lease and expects to present their proposal to the ECHL Board of Governors at their annual meeting on June 21 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

If awarded an expansion franchise, the team would join the Worcester Railers for the 2017-18 season.

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