One of the greatest Portland Pirates of all time is finally getting inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame.
Nearly 20 years after setting two scoring records and helping the Pirates win the Calder Cup during their inaugural season, Jeff Nelson will be inducted Saturday night when the Pirates play the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Nelson will join 13 former players in the hall, including his older brother, Todd.
“My brother was a big part of a lot of teams in Portland, and he put up some real big numbers there, and I think it’s awesome for our family to have my brother inducted as well as myself,” said Todd Nelson, in his fourth season as head coach of the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons. “It was a very special time, winning a Calder Cup together, and I think this is long overdue.”
Jeff Nelson’s exclusion from the Pirates’ Hall of Fame wasn’t because of an oversight. It had more to do with the fact he kept playing hockey and was ineligible for consideration.
“I was nominated in 2000, but I ended up coming back and playing for the Pirates that year,” Nelson said. In 2010, the next time Nelson’s name was on the ballot, a majority of the fans selected forward Chris Jensen, the captain of the first Pirates team. “They called me the next year, and I was back playing hockey.”
Nelson’s playing career spanned nearly 20 seasons, starting with the AHL’s Baltimore Skipjacks in 1992 and ending with the Evansville IceMen of the Central Hockey League in 2011.
During the Pirates’ inaugural season in 1993-94, Nelson had 34 goals and 73 assists, establishing team standards for assists and points that still stand.
“I think one of the most memorable times in my pro career was the stay I had in Portland,” said Nelson, who played a total of five seasons for the Pirates during an eight-year span. “I met a lot of people here, made a lot of friends. It was a great experience. To be honored in this way is tremendous.
“I was fortunate to be with my brother and win a Calder Cup, and just that alone was such an experience.”
“He was a big part of the Portland Pirates family for a lot of years,” said Todd Nelson, who was inducted in 2006. “It’s a special day for both Jeff and I.”
Jeff Nelson played in 55 NHL games for the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators. He also played for professional teams in Germany and Italy.
Except for three years when he lived year-round in Michigan, where he played for the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins and the UHL’s Muskegon Fury, Nelson has returned to Maine annually since his first season with the Pirates.
“In the summer, we always had a place in Maine to come to,” said Nelson, who lives with his wife and three daughters in Union and works as an electrician. Last winter, he started playing in a men’s league at the Mid-Coast Recreation Center in Rockport.
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: