The Icelandic steamship line Eimskip is sponsoring a new cup series with the professional hockey clubs in Portland and St. John’s, Newfoundland, with the aim of developing business relationships between the two host cities.

The Portland Pirates, in conjunction with the St. John’s IceCaps, launched the Eimskip Port-to-Port Challenge Cup this month between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Pirates and IceCaps have just concluded a three-game series in St. John’s and will battle for the cup over the remainder of their six regular-season matchups. The St. John’s team is up two games to one.

Maine and Newfoundland are linked by an Eimskip container ship, which travels every two weeks between Portland and Argentia, a port near Newfoundland’s largest city, St. John’s.

Eimskip moved its North American headquarters from Norfolk, Virginia, to Portland in 2013 and designated Portland as its only port of call in the United States. When Eimskip managers first visited Portland that year, the Pirates’ owners invited them to watch a hockey game. The club’s owners have helped Eimskip get a footing in the community, said Gyfli Sigfusson, president of the shipping line.

Eimskip is giving the two clubs an undisclosed amount of money to sponsor the cup series. The company and the two hockey clubs also plan to collaborate on fundraising efforts to benefit local nonprofits.

For Eimskip, the sponsorship can help the company build its shipping business by increasing awareness of the port connection between Maine and Newfoundland and by developing business relationships, said Patrick Arnold, who manages the International Marine Terminal for the Maine Port Authority.


Most people in Portland don’t know anything about St. John’s, he said.

“The idea is to get the port cities more engaged with each other,” Arnold said. “Business never happens when people are totally unfamiliar with each other. Let’s start with cultural engagement. Let’s start with something fun.”

Eimskip officials will be able to take potential clients to games, he said. In addition, the company hopes its staff in both cities will follow the series. The staff can better serve their customers if they become more familiar with other port communities, Arnold said. For example, if a European buyer is looking for a product in Canada but can’t find a source, the Eimskip staff in St. John’s could find a source for the product in Maine, Arnold said.

Either way, Eimskip makes money shipping the product.

The company recently launched a Facebook page, Eimskip USA & Canada, to help the staff follow the two teams. The site also includes news about the company’s activities in North America.

“With our move to Portland, Maine, it only makes sense to kindle a rivalry between the Eimskip offices and bring some excitement to the community,” Sigfusson said.


The Pirates’ biggest rival right now is the Monarchs, a team from Manchester, New Hampshire. The two teams are in the second season of a similar cup series, called the VIP Cup, which is sponsored by VIP Tires and Service.

The Eimskip cup series will also help the Pirates reconnect with the Portland community, said Brian Corcoran, president of Portland-based Shamrock Sports & Entertainment, which is selling sponsorships and tickets for the Pirates.

A contentious lease negotiation resulted in the team’s self-imposed exile to Lewiston last season. The team returned to the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland this year, but attendance has fallen. The team is now ranked last in attendance in the American Hockey League even though it is playing well and is ranked second in its division.

In contrast, the IceCaps is among the most successful teams in the league and has a large and passionate following, even though the team currently sits at the bottom of the division, Corcoran said.

He said attending a hockey game is a “non-intrusive” way for businesspeople to get to know each other, and that the partnership between the Pirates and Eimskip works for both companies.

The Pirates will travel again to Newfoundland to play the IceCaps on Feb. 6 and 7. The two teams will play in Portland on Feb. 22, Feb. 25, March 25 and March 27.

The winner of the series will enjoy bragging rights and temporary possession of a trophy, which has yet to be designed. But don’t be surprised if it looks like a shipping container.


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