March 16, 2010

Pirates holding tight to Sabres

But an extended affiliation with the NHL team is no guarantee they'll stay.

By Paul Betit
Staff Writer

and Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The Portland Pirates entered into a long-term extension of their affiliation agreement with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, but it's unclear how that will affect the Pirates' lease negotiations with the Cumberland County Civic Center.

The two sides have been negotiating this week. Brian Petrovek, CEO and managing owner of the Pirates, and Neal Pratt, chairman of the civic center's board of trustees, met for about 90 minutes Wednesday. The Pirates' lease at the civic center expires April 30.

Pratt would not offer specifics Thursday on the state of the negotiations, but said he's hoping for a resolution in a few days. Petrovek, who is weighing an offer to move the Pirates to Albany, N.Y., also indicated that he wants a quick resolution.

"We're behind in our business plan," he said Thursday evening, "and every day that goes by puts us further beyond where we need to be, preparing for next season. We continue to work toward resolution. Our focus continues to be on Portland."

Petrovek said the affiliation extension puts the Pirates on their strongest footing ever with a National Hockey League team.

"Here we are, in a position we've dreamed of being, in a relationship with an NHL partner which is far different than we've ever had before," he told the Portland Press Herald. Previously, the Pirates were affiliated with the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks.

Petrovek said the length of the new deal with the Sabres still must be determined. "We're still working through how far we want to go," he said.

The Pirates are in the second year of a five-year deal with the Sabres. Under the original arrangement, only the first three years were guaranteed.

"When we do agreements like this, the length is not something we normally disclose," said Buffalo Sabres spokesman Mike Gilbert. "We just say it's a long-term agreement."

Pratt, the trustees negotiator, is unsure how the affiliation extension with the Sabres will affect negotiations with the Pirates.

"I'm happy for the Pirates," he said. "I know that an extension of the affiliation agreement with the Sabres was an important piece of the puzzle for them, but I don't know what it means in our negotiations with them. It is a separate issue."

In a written statement, Petrovek said: "Greater Portland has embraced a group of world-class players, coaches and team staff who have been and continue to be outstanding professionals and people, both on and off the ice. We're looking forward to our future together with high hopes and expectations as we continue to do our part to help develop future Buffalo Sabres and compete for Calder Cup championships."

In recent weeks, Petrovek has been offered a deal to move the franchise to the Times Union Center in Albany, which wants to replace an AHL team that will move to Charlotte, N.C., after this season.

Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber told the Albany Times Union newspaper Thursday that the Pirates still haven't decided where they will play next season.

"It's good that they got the affiliation extended," Belber said. "That doesn't mean that they're staying in Portland. It doesn't mean that they're coming here."

In negotiations with the civic center, Petrovek has proposed a realignment of the Pirates' financial relationship with the county-owned arena. He proposed that the team and the civic center share revenue ranging from naming rights to concession sales.

A week ago, the civic center's trustees rejected Petrovek's plan, offering a few changes to the existing lease.

Any changes negotiated beyond that counterproposal are subject to approval by the trustees.

"There's a regular board meeting scheduled for next Wednesday, and it is my hope we can have a deal, at least in principle, done by then," Pratt said.


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


Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)