The Portland Pirates are going to try to make the best out of playing all their home games this season in their new home, the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“It’s obviously a little upsetting that management and the rink couldn’t come to an agreement,” said center Andy Miele, who is entering his third professional season.
“(Portland) is where we’ve been for two years, and we like playing at that rink, but the fans up in Lewiston were great when we were there (last year), and I know they will be great this entire year.”
The Pirates had planned to play 13 home games at the Colisee this season while the $34 million renovation of the Cumberland County Civic Center was completed.
On Sept. 26, Pirates managing owner Brian Petrovek announced the AHL team will play its entire 38-game home schedule in Lewiston because of a stalemate in lease negotiations with the Portland facility’s trustees.
The first of those home games is Wednesday night when the Pirates open their season against the Manchester Monarchs.
The Pirates players seem to have mixed feelings about the move.
“Portland is a such a great city,” said forward Brett Hextall, another third-year pro. “Obviously, we like it there and we would like to get back there, but it’s kind of a unique situation this year, so all we can do is make the best of it and make Lewiston (our) home.”
Last season, the Pirates won 5 of 6 at the Colisee.
“We played well and we like it up there,” Hextall said. “It’s definitely more intimate. All the seats are a bit closer. They don’t sit as high as they do in the Civic Center.”
“It’s tough leaving such a loyal fan base in Portland, but, you know, the games played (in Lewiston) last year was such a great environment,” said forward Jordan Szwarz, the team captain. “As long as that carries over this year, we’re all excited to be out there again.”
Originally, the Pirates were going to treat their games in Lewiston as away games. They were going to travel as a team by bus from their training facility at the MHG Ice Centre in Saco.
With the circumstances different, the Pirates are taking a different approach.
“We’re going to start (the season) with the guys driving up (to Lewiston) because we want it to feel like it’s a home game,” Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said.
“When you’re taking a bus, it feels like a road game. We’re going to try to make (the Colisee) feel like home by allowing the guys to drive. We’re going to start that way, and see how it goes.”
“It will be kind of nice to drive up there and go up when you want to,” Hextall said. “Maybe go up a little bit earlier.”
Teams traveling to play the Pirates will now have to bus a little further and that could turn into an advantage.
“Other teams have to come a little bit further, and not only that but they’ve got to travel a little bit further to get to their game the next night,” Hextall said. “Hopefully, they’re complaining about that and are miserable about it. It’s definitely a unique situation for us, but not a terrible one.”
The visitors’ locker room at the Colisee is not as plush as most in the AHL, another possible edge for the Pirates.
“It is a longer drive for (visiting teams), and I don’t think their set up in the visitors’ room is too good,” Miele said. “No one likes to come into that, which is obviously a benefit for us.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: