March 16, 2010

New affiliate to be revealed on Tuesday

PAUL BETIT

— By

Staff Writer

Portland Pirates fans will have to wait until Tuesday to get the official word that their new National Hockey League parent team is the Buffalo Sabres.

The Pirates have scheduled a press conference for 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Captain's Club at the Cumberland County Civic Center to introduce their new affiliation.

Earlier this week, the Anaheim Ducks ended their three-year affiliation with Portland, entering into a two-year agreement with the American Hockey League team in Des Moines, Iowa, formerly known as the Iowa Stars.

The Sabres, who ended their 29-year affiliation with the Rochester Americans earlier this year, are expected to become the Pirates' new NHL parent, but officials from both teams have refused to comment about an impending agreement.

For the past two seasons, the Sabres shared an affiliation in Rochester with the Florida Panthers, who will become the sole NHL affiliate for the Americans.

Brian Petrovek, the Pirates' managing partner and CEO, said Friday that fans could see some familiar faces in the team's lineup next season despite the affiliation change.

''We have every reason to believe that the strategy this team will take in the development of its players is very similar to one we're used to, with a marriage of youth and experienced, veteran players,'' Petrovek said. ''This particular team understands the value of that and is going to be working very hard to blend those veterans into the roster.''

AHL teams can suit up five veterans each game. Players who have appeared in more than 260 games in the NHL, AHL or European elite leagues are considered veterans.

''It's been proven you can't have 22 young kids,'' Petrovek said. ''It just doesn't play. Teams successful in their ability to develop those young players can't win championships without those veterans.''

Defenseman Eric Weinrich, a veteran of 18 NHL seasons who came out of retirement to play the last 11/2 seasons, has said he is interested in continuing his playing career with the Pirates.

''We're very interested in having the Weinriches remain part of this family,'' Petrovek said.

Weinrich, a former UMaine player who grew up in Gardiner, said he doesn't want to leave the state to continue his hockey career.

Petrovek said the Pirates won't be changing their name or uniforms.

''There are no plans to change team colors, team name or team logo,'' he said. ''It is our intention, as we've done in the past, to align ourselves with our NHL partner with (their) logo on our shoulders.''

Since the end of the regular season, Buffalo has signed five draft picks to entry-level contracts. Included in that group are forwards Nathan Gerbe, who led the nation in scoring this past season while playing for NCAA champion Boston College, and Tim Kennedy, who led Michigan State in scoring the past two seasons.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 386-0346 or at:

pbetit@pressherald.com

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