SACO — The call came from Coach Ray Edwards near center ice after a defender poked loose a puck to disrupt the progress of three forwards. The attackers hesitated, unsure whether to continue the drill.

“Regroup!” Edwards hollered. “Regroup!”

It seemed a fitting battle cry for the first day of training camp for Maine’s American Hockey League franchise. The Portland Pirates are regrouping after their most frustrating season since leaving their Skipjacks uniforms in Baltimore and heading north in 1993.

Two dozen players, four assistants and Edwards skated together Tuesday at the MHG Ice Centre to kick off a two-week training camp leading up to the franchise’s 22nd hockey season in Maine, but the 21st in downtown Portland. Every home game last winter was played at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, first because of renovations to the Cumberland County Civic Center and later because of a lease dispute with the building’s board of trustees.

“Obviously last year wasn’t the best situation,” said third-year center Jordan Martinook. “We appreciate Lewiston’s fan support and everybody, but being being back in Portland we’re the Portland Pirates again; we’re not just the Pirates.”

They won only 24 times last season, fewest in a 30-team league that plays a 76-game schedule. They drew crowds of 2,185 in Lewiston. Again, fewest in a league where every other team averaged more than 3,000.

An assistant coach, Mike Minard, was fired in February after an investigation revealed sexual misconduct involving text messages with a 13-year-old girl he met at a game in Lewiston in November.

Minard, a native of Canada, is serving a two-month sentence at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset.

“Last year was just a roller coaster from one thing to the next,” said Phil Lane, another third-year Pirate looking forward to turning the page. “We’ve got a whole different group of guys this year, and we’ve just got to forget about last year and be excited about the new season.”

This season the Pirates have a new owner (Ron Cain), a new chief operating officer (Brad Church, a former Pirates player), a new general manager (Edwards, who added the responsibilities after the NHL Calgary Flames hired Brad Treliving as GM) and a refurbished and renamed home rink (Cross Insurace Arena) in downtown Portland.

“Whatever it’s called, it’s good to be back there,” Lane said. “It’s tough to play 76 games essentially on the road. We’ll have a home rink established right in the city. The fans will probably be good. As long as we’re playing well, they should come out and support us. If we get off to a good start, it will be a good year.”

Lane and Martinook were among a group of players who took part in the parent Arizona Coyotes training camp before coming to Maine.

Another seven or eight players are likely to arrive as Arizona trims its roster to 23 for the NHL season.

The Portland roster Monday listed 29 players but only 23 were on the ice for the workout because of injuries and travel, which meant that a former University of Maine goalie, Alfie Michaud, recently hired as a part-time assistant after retiring as a player last spring, suited up.

“It was fun,” said Michaud, 37, who backstopped the Black Bears to the 1999 national championship. “I’m glad I can help out. As I’m skating, I’m still trying to evaluate and watch Adam Brown down at the other end.”

Brown, the only other goalie in camp so far, is under contract with an East Coast Hockey League team. Mike McKenna, who has NHL experience with three clubs and was signed as a free agent over the summer, is expected to join the Pirates on Wednesday.

Mark Visentin, who suffered an ankle injury with Arizona, is on the Portland roster. Louis Domingue, unless he wins a roster spot with the Coyotes, is likely to return in goal as well.

“To have Mike here is a great addition to the hockey club, especially for the other goaltenders,” Michaud said. “He can relay a lot to these kids. Hopefully he makes my job a little easier.”

Another notable in the Pirates’ camp is a Lewiston native, Mark Anthoine, who collected his degree in business management in Orono last spring after playing four years for the Black Bears. He’s under contract with Evansville of the ECHL but received an invitation to Portland’s camp.

“It was pretty tough,” Anthoine said of his first AHL workout. “It’s fast-paced. Everyone’s working their hardest. There are no guys slacking off.”

Edwards smiled when asked about Anthoine, whom he met this summer while at the rink in Saco.

“It’s nice to have a local flavor and he’s a really good kid,” Edwards said. “We’ll muck it up here with him for a few days and see what happens.”

After daily practices this week, the Pirates are scheduled to play an exhibition game against Manchester on Saturday night at the CIA in Portland and again Sunday afternoon in New Hampshire. They open the season Oct. 11 in Portland against Providence.

“We’re just excited to get going and move past last year,” Edwards said. “As far as we’re concerned it’s over, and we want to be better, obviously.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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