March 11, 2010

A worthy inductee to the Hall

— Tom Ebright, who brought pro hockey back to Maine, will be inducted into the Portland Pirates Hall of Fame tonight.

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''I think he would be humbled and very quietly proud that people thought enough of him and his efforts to present him with this honor,'' said Ellen Carlton, one of Ebright's daughters.

Ebright will be the first person inducted posthumously into the Hall, which has 12 members.

On July 15, 1997, Ebright died of heart failure at 53 while at a hospital in Hershey, Pa., awaiting a heart transplant.

''I've never seen any owner in all my years who took so much joy in his team,'' said Jim Anderschat, supervisor of off-ice officials for the past 20 years at the Cumberland County Civic Center. ''Every game to him was like opening a Christmas present. ''

In 1993, one year after the Maine Mariners left town to become the Providence Bruins, Ebright moved his team to Portland from Baltimore.

The new team was an instant success, capping its inaugural season with a Calder Cup title.

At most home games, Ebright and his family sat in Section D, wearing their Pirates jerseys, waving and cheering.

''He looked more like a member of the boosters' club than the team owner,'' Anderschat said.

While Ebright always was available to fans, he would meet with them two or three times each season to discuss the state of the team.

''He loved to hear what the fans had to say,'' Anderschat said. ''He would listen to their gripes and answer their questions.''

Induction ceremonies will take place tonight at the Civic Center during the first intermission of the game against the Lowell Devils.

Ebright will join goalies Olaf Kolzig, Byron Dafoe, Martin Brochu and Jim Carey, defensemen Steve Poapst and Todd Nelson, and forwards Andrew Brunette, Kevin Kaminski, Kent Hulst, Ryan Mulhern and Barry Trotz, the first Pirates coach, in the Hall.

THE PLAYOFF FATE of the Pirates lies in their own hands.

With 10 games left in the regular season, the Pirates don't need any help from other teams to secure one of the four playoff berths out of the Atlantic Division.

''In these last 10 games, we control our destiny. We know that,'' Portland captain Tyler Bouck said. ''If we win, we get in. If we lose, we don't.''

With less than three weeks left in the regular season, Portland is one of the six teams in the seven-team division still in the race for one of the four playoff berths from the division.

Providence and Hartford seem destined to compete for the top two seeds.

The Pirates are in a race with Manchester, Worcester and Lowell for the other two playoff spots.

Portland is tied with Worcester for fourth place. Both trail third-place Manchester by three points and are three points ahead of sixth-place Lowell.

The Pirates are on a three-game losing streak .

''For parts of (last weekend's) games, we took it to the two top teams in the (Eastern) conference,'' said Bouck, referring to a 3-1 loss to Hartford and a 5-4 loss to Hershey in which the Pirates blew a three-goal lead. ''We can compete with those top teams. We've just got to be more consistent.''

All of Portland's remaining games are against division foes, so every win or loss means a lot.

The Pirates have two games left against Lowell, Manchester, Springfield and Providence, and one game left against Hartford and Worcester.

DEFENSEMAN DENNIS Persson, the Buffalo Sabres' first-round pick in the 2006 draft, practiced for the first time Thursday with the Pirates.

''He obviously solidifies our defense,'' Coach Kevin Dineen said.

''He gives us some depth, which has been a sore point for us for the last three months.''

In 46 games with Timra IK in the Eliserien, the top pro league in his native Sweden, Persson, who turned 20 last June, had a goal and five assists.

Earlier this week, the Pirates reassigned defenseman Steve Ward to ECHL's Charlotte Checks and goalie John DeCaro to the ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers.

LEFT WING Derek Whitmore is the Pirates' candidate for the Yanik Dupre Memorial Award, awarded annually to an AHL player for his outstanding contributions to his community and to charitable organizations.

Whitmore, who has played in 68 of Portland's 70 games, was involved in the team's Goals for Success program in the region's schools and participated in youth hockey clinics throughout the season.

''He's always been one to do something extra,'' said Greg Glynn, the Pirates' vice president for communications.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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