A group attempting to land a minor league hockey team for Portland has located an investor willing to put up most or all of the $750,000 needed to buy a team.

Godfrey Wood, who is leading the effort, said he will meet with the potential investor next week to nail down some details, including whether the unnamed investor would be sole owner or majority owner of the franchise.

Wood, a former head of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce and currently executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland, was instrumental in landing the Portland Pirates, an American Hockey League team that set up in the city in 1993. The Pirates announced in early May that the team had been sold and was relocating to Springfield, Massachusetts, for the 2016-17 season.

AHL teams are considered the top level of minor league hockey. The team being sought for Portland plays in the ECHL, considered a step below the AHL.

Wood would not identify the investor beyond saying he played college hockey and lives out of state, although he often visits Maine in the summer. He said the investor is considering retiring to Maine in four or five years.

Wood and former Pirates executive Brad Church have been working to find a team to replace the Pirates. Wood doesn’t plan to invest in the team, but is working as a consultant on the effort. Church hopes to be an executive with the new team.


“We’ve had very encouraging discussions with potential owners who have the best interests of our hockey community at heart,” Church said.


Among the issues Wood, Church and the investor need to resolve is whether to seek an expansion ECHL team or to buy and relocate an existing franchise.

Wood said an expansion team would cost $750,000. Last month he told the Press Herald that he thought buying an existing franchise would be cheaper, but said Wednesday that the ECHL is considering a “transfer tax” that makes the purchase price of an existing team and an expansion team the same.

The ECHL board of governors met last month and didn’t hear any presentations from potential new owners, said Joe Babik, director of communications for the league, which has 27 active teams and one expansion team that will begin play next year. Babik declined to comment on several matters because he said the board meeting is ongoing, but in recess until sometime in September. He wouldn’t comment on Wood’s statement about the transfer tax, or whether investors in other cities were expected to bid on the expansion team. Wood said Jacksonville, Florida, has put together a team of investors who are expected to make a pitch for the expansion team.

Babik did say the team is likely to be awarded when the board meets in September.


“The window is very quickly closing” for a new team to get up and running for the 2017-18 season, he said.

Wood said he, Church and a committee of the trustees who oversee the Cumberland County-owned Cross Insurance Arena in Portland are close to an agreement on a lease for the new team. He said the trustees haven’t voted on the lease yet because they want to learn the identity of the new ownership first.

Neither Church nor Wood would provide details on the potential terms. A trustee’s committee has been negotiating with Wood and Church in executive session. Attempts to reach Neal Pratt, who heads the committee, were not successful Wednesday.

“We’ve been able to come to a set of terms that will make sense for our business model,” Church said.

The trustees were roughly $45,000 apart on terms for a new lease with the Pirates when the team announced it was leaving.

The Pirates said they were losing about $500,000 a year and needed breaks in the existing lease, which was set to run to April 2019, to keep the team in Portland.


The financial arrangements in the ECHL are much different than those in the AHL. For instance, AHL teams pay affiliation fees to be linked to an NHL team – for the Pirates, it cost $800,000 a year for its affiliation with the Florida Panthers.

ECHL teams don’t pay affiliation fees.

The NHL usually supplies only a handful of players to teams in the ECHL and most of the players on the roster have standard ECHL contracts. The team operates with a salary cap that was $12,500 a week last year.

Church and Wood said the lower cost structure will allow the ECHL team to charge much less than tickets for the Pirates, which started at $18 last year. Wood said general admission tickets at an ECHL game in Portland would likely run $8.

The lower cost will help bring in more fans, Church said, which boosts the bottom line because the hockey team gets a cut of concession sales.

“It helps us improve sales and improve turnstiles,” Church said.

ECHL teams are growing in the Northeast, Church said, so travel costs can be kept in check and rivalries can develop.

The ECHL teams play 72 games during the season, which typically begins in October and runs until April. The ECHL, or East Coast Hockey League, was originally based in the Northeast, but many teams moved to the South and West. Some, however, are now moving back.

The ECHL has two conferences – the Eastern and Western – and two divisions within each conference. There are now five teams in the Eastern Division of the ECHL Eastern Conference, where a Portland team would likely be placed. Other teams in that division are Adirondack, which plays in Glens Falls, New York; Elmira, New York; Manchester, New Hampshire; Reading, Pennsylvania; and Norfolk, Virginia. A team in Worcester, Massachusetts, will begin to play in that division in 2017.

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