Die-hard followers of the Portland Pirates appear to be looking forward to the team’s new NHL affiliation.

Earlier this week, the Pirates announced a four-year agreement with the Florida Panthers, starting with the 2015-16 season. Portland has been the American Hockey League affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes since 2011.

“I think it’s a very welcome change,” said Andrew Hart of South Portland before Friday night’s game at Cross Insurance Arena. “It’s tough to get behind a team that is so far away, who doesn’t have that connection to the local community.”

Hart, in his 10th year as a Pirates season-ticket holder, said he likes what he’s hearing from the Panthers.

“It’s great to hear a new affiliation partner say the goal is win championships and divisions. That’s great to hear because it seems to be welcome change from the Coyotes.”

Hart isn’t the only fan embracing the change.

“What I didn’t like about the Coyotes is they just kept calling their players back and forth, back and forth, and you never knew who they were going to be playing,” said Gary Cornwell of Harpswell. “Hopefully, there will be more stability.”

Brad Fillion, a Rockland resident who is in his first year as a season-ticket holder, is simply to glad to hear an AHL team will remain in Portland.

“Honest, I’m just real excited (the Pirates) are staying,” he said. “That was my major concern. You kind of get attached to the players, but, to be honest, our biggest level of concern was losing (hockey) altogether.”

Fillion and his wife already have signed up for the full slate of home games next season.

“This is our first season doing a full season,” he said. “In the past, we’ve done 20 games or a half-season and we’ve always gone to more games than we got tickets for.”

Alethia Mello, a Portland resident in her first year as a season-ticket holder, had mixed feelings about the change in affiliation.

“It’s just going to be different not having the same players,” she said. “I don’t mind the change, (but) I just would rather have the players that I’ve gotten use to.”

Although the Pirates carried a seven-game winning streak into Friday night’s game, followers of the team still seemed a little leery about the Coyotes’ management of the AHL roster.

“It’s great to see a seven-game winning streak with players that started out in Portland,” Hart said. “One can only hope that the parent club will let the team down here play the season out as a team and not basically end it by call-ups.”

The Pirates, who began play in Portland in 1993, previously have been affiliated with the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres.