With some key dates looming, it is looking more unlikely that Portland, ME will land an ECHL franchise by 2017.
This past spring, the AHL’s Portland Pirates announced that they were relocating to Springfield MA, leaving Portland and Cross Insurance Arena without professional hockey for the first time in decades. Shortly after the Pirates’ departure was announced, former team executives Godfrey Wood and Brad Church revealed their intentions to form an investment group to replace the team.
The efforts of Wood and Church to land an ECHL franchise continue, but it is unlikely that something will happen for the 2017-18 season. The ECHL’s board of governors is scheduled to meet on January 18, and applications for franchises are due in advance of that date. League officials confirmed that Portland has not submitted an application, while Wood and Church seem to be shifting their focus beyond next season. More from the Portland Press Herald:
Joe Babik, spokesman for the ECHL, said Thursday that he has not received an application for a franchise in Portland and would need one “probably within the next week or 10 days” in order for it to be considered at the league’s meeting in January.
Church, a former player for the Pirates and the team’s chief operating officer during its final two seasons, said finding suitable investors willing to bankroll a franchise has been a challenge.
“We’ve had some people who have been interested, who have looked into it,” he said, “but it just never got across the finish line.”
Wood, general manager and president of the American Hockey League’s Pirates for three seasons in the 1990s, is saying very little.
“There’s nothing to announce,” he said. “I am not in a position to tell you whether or not we have applied for a franchise.”
When asked if he remains optimistic about professional hockey returning to Portland, Wood said “absolutely.” When asked specifically about next winter, he declined to comment.
Portland’s efforts come as the ECHL is believed to be considering expansion, but whether Portland can align its timing with the league remains to be seen. Before their move, the Pirates had been in Portland since 1993.