March 16, 2010

Pirates trying to stay on task

The uncertainty of the team's future in Portland can be distracting to the players and coaches.

By Paul Betit pbetit@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Portland Pirates' players and coaches are trying to maintain their focus during the contentious lease negotiations between the team's owners and the Cumberland County Civic Center. But that's not so easy.

"It does affect the team," head coach Kevin Dineen said. "We get asked about it all the time. It gets us off hockey and it's a distraction."

The team practiced at the civic center Wednesday morning for the first time since returning from a three-game trip.

While the team was gone, the civic center's trustees responded to Pirates managing owner Brian Petrovek's wide-ranging financial proposal for a new lease agreement with a simpler plan of their own.

No deadline has been set for Petrovek to respond to the trustees' counterproposal. The current lease ends on April 30.

"We all want to know," Dineen said. "It's important. We all want to know what's going on."

None of the players or coaches profess to have any inside knowledge about the lease negotiations.

"We know as much as everyone else knows," said right wing Kyle Rank, in his second season with the Pirates. "The first time I heard about it was two weeks ago when it came out on the 6 o'clock news."

Petrovek recently has talked with the managers of the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., about moving the Pirates into that building next season. The AHL's Albany River Rats have been sold, and their new owners are moving the franchise to Charlotte, N.C.

"Obviously, we all like it here in Portland," Rank said. "It's not that we want to leave. But it's not in our control and you can't really worry about something you can't control. It doesn't really affect us. We just play."

Dineen was a member of the NHL's Hartford Whalers when the team moved to Charlotte in 1997 to become the Carolina Hurricanes.

"It's not a fun thing to go through it, whether it's an organizational change or a move," he said.

But Dineen said a move to another city would have more of an impact on him and assistant coach Eric Weinrich than it would on his players.

"It's something that affects our families," he said.

For the past five years, Dineen and his wife, Annie, and their four children have lived in Cape Elizabeth during the school year.

Weinrich, who grew up in Gardiner, and his wife, Tracy, have settled in Yarmouth with their two children.

If the Pirates were to move out of Portland, Dineen said it could affect his ability to recruit veteran players for the team.

"During the summer when I'm selling jobs, part of the sales pitch has to do with Portland, Maine," he said. "I look at a town like Portland and I can say it is the quality city in the Northeast."

 

NOTES: The AHL announced Wednesday that it suspended Dineen for one game. He originally was suspended indefinitely for his actions on the ice while vigorously disputing referee Chris Cozzan's decision to deny a last-second goal by the Pirates in a 4-3 loss at Syracuse on Saturday night. Dineen, who wasn't allowed behind the Portland bench during a 3-2 loss to Rochester Sunday, can resume coaching the Pirates during their game Friday night against the Manchester Monarchs at the civic center.

Forward Tyler Ennis, who leads AHL rookies in scoring, has been cleared to return to the lineup after missing three games because of a concussion.

Rosters listing the names of the 20 skaters and two goalies from each team eligible to play the rest of the season and the playoffs are scheduled to be released today by the league.

Center Matt Caruana, who has three goals and six assists in 36 games during two stints with the Pirates, returned to the ECHL's Gwinnet (Ga.) Gladiators.

 

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

pbetit@pressherald.com

 

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