Professional hockey is officially back in Portland, as the Maine Mariners (ECHL) made their Cross Insurance Arena debut on Saturday.
Portland had been without professional hockey since 2016, when the Portland Pirates (AHL) relocated to Springfield, MA. The Mariners are filling that void, thanks to the ECHL’s June 2017 decision to approve the transfer of controlling interest in the defunct Alaska Aces membership to Comcast Spectacor.
The team’s anticipated arrival at Cross Insurance Arena occurred on Saturday, when it hosted a regular-season opener against the Adirondack Thunder. The game drew 5,291 fans, with many in attendance expressing their pleasure that professional hockey has returned to Portland. More from the Portland Press-Herald:
“Who doesn’t love hockey?” wondered Jaclyn Bergmann, 32, of Auburn as she whiled away the final minutes before the start at Cross Insurance Arena listening to her two daughters perform with Camp of Rock. Behind her, three dozen fans waited to purchase clothing and other merchandise bearing the Mariners’ logo.
Bergmann wore a black Boston Bruins sweatshirt. Outside, through a bank of windows, she could see the Old Port skyline and masts from sailboats in Portland Harbor as morning rain had given way to clear afternoon sunshine.
“You’re living in the wrong state,” Bergmann continued, “if you don’t like winter and hockey.”
These Mariners are named after the inhabitants of the newly constructed Cumberland County Civic Center in 1977 who played in the American Hockey League as the Philadelphia Flyers’ top farm club.
Saturday’s contest resulted in a loss for the Mariners, who were defeated by the Thunder 6-3.