Godfrey Wood remains optimistic that he can pull together an investor group in time to bring an ECHL pro hockey franchise to Portland for the 2017-18 season.

“We’re working hard on it,” Wood said Wednesday. “We do have a deadline coming up but that sometimes makes things come together quicker.”

In order to submit a franchise application to the ECHL at its Jan. 17-18 board of governors meeting, Wood will need a lease approval from the Cross Insurance Arena board of trustees. Neal Pratt, the CIA board’s liaison, said he would need to receive a lease proposal by mid-December.

Former Portland Pirates owner Ron Cain sold the team in May to a group that moved it to Springfield, Massachusetts, home to AHL headquarters. Soon after, Wood and Brad Church announced plans to assemble a team of investors to return pro hockey to Portland.

Wood is executive director of Habitat for Humanity and former head of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. He served as general manager and president of the Pirates their first three seasons, from 1993-95. Church played for the Pirates and most recently served as the team’s chief operating officer.

They set their sights on securing an ECHL team and in July said they found an out-of-state investor willing to put up most or all of the roughly $750,000 needed to buy a team. By the end of August, however, Wood said the potential majority owner had pulled out.

On Wednesday, Wood said he continues to pursue an ECHL franchise through purchase or expansion.

“We’re looking at both options,” he said. “And frankly, it doesn’t matter, all (a successful application would mean), is a license to do business.”

The ECHL formed in 1988 as the East Coast Hockey League but now includes 27 active franchises from Florida to Alaska. The Worcester (Massachusetts) Railers are the 28th franchise and begin play next season.

Another franchise, formerly known as the Evansville (Indiana) IceMen, moved to Owensboro, Kentucky, but for the second straight season remains dormant.

The ECHL is considered the third tier of pro hockey in North America, with a talent level below that of the National Hockey League and the AHL.

The ECHL board of governors met in late September to, among other things, consider applications for expansion.

Pratt, the CIA board liaison, said he spoke with Wood on Wednesday about the group’s progress and deadlines.

“Realistically, it’s not a hard deadline,” Pratt said of any proposal for ECHL hockey for the 2017-18 season, “but we’d need something pretty concrete by mid-December. … As the time gets closer to that deadline, it becomes less and less likely that it will happen for next year.”

Pratt said arena management continues to schedule events and is exploring other sports options for beyond next winter should the ECHL option fall through. He also said the arena has been approached by other groups with an interest in restoring pro hockey to Portland.

“We’re already filling dates,” he said. “We are actively seeking and booking events. Hopefully we’ll have a nice mix, even for hockey fans.”

Wood said he spoke twice Wednesday with ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna about the application process and timing.

“It’s clear to me the league would like to have Portland in it,” Wood said. “We’re doing our best to make that happen.”

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