LEWISTON — “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” is a fitting phrase for the Scarborough and Lewiston High hockey teams.

After Scarborough lost its home rink during the offseason, the two perennial powerhouses who battled each other for the Class A state title in March now share a home – the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

While the teams are not actually “enemies,” the move has been tough on Scarborough, as the closure of rinks across Maine continues to put a crunch on ice time.

“Getting ice time is really difficult,” said Scarborough Coach Norm Gagne, who is in his 42nd year of coaching. “I just think that it’s a dangerous time for hockey.”

Scarborough's Norm Gagne, in his 42nd year coaching high school hockey, says that with so many rinks closing around the state, "I just think it's a dangerous time for hockey."

Scarborough’s Norm Gagne, in his 42nd year coaching high school hockey, says that with so many rinks closing around the state, “I just think it’s a dangerous time for hockey.”

The Red Storm previously held practices right after school less than 10 miles away at MHG Ice Arena in Saco. They lost their rink when ownership decided to convert the space into a multisport training facility. The sudden departure of the Portland Pirates last spring prompted the decision, as the American Hockey League team – along with the Portland Junior Pirates Elite squad – would no longer be using the facility.

Now, Scarborough travels by bus some 50 minutes to practice, which can start as late as 8:30 p.m. On those nights players don’t get home until around 11 p.m.


“It has been a little tough,” said Eric Murray, a senior defenseman. “School can be a little tiring the next day.”

As a result of the new schedule, Scarborough has fewer players this season – not enough to field a JV team.

“They’re young and we have late practices – their parents didn’t want them to travel,” Gagne said of potential JV players who didn’t come out for the team.

“We don’t have our own rink – a lot of places don’t. So you’ve got to take the ice time when you can get it.”

Scarborough isn’t the only high school program recently uprooted. Winslow, Messalonskee and the Lawrence/Skowhegan cooperative team lost their home when Sukee Arena in Winslow did not open this winter because of an ice-making equipment failure.

Those schools are now relying on the Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell, Alfond Athletics Center in Kents Hill and Colby College’s Alfond Rink in Waterville.


South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete Coach Joe Robinson considers his boys’ team “one of the lucky ones.” His squad usually gets onto the ice early in the afternoon at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland – its home since the 1990s. However, they have a handful of practices scheduled as late as 9:40 p.m. in Falmouth.

“There’s a direct correlation between the lack of rinks and the shrinking number of kids participating in hockey – no question,” Robinson said. “There are more co-op teams now in Southern Maine than there are not.”

Eleven of the 20 Class A boys’ teams are co-ops. For the girls, 12 of 16 squads involve more than one high school.

“When you see a team like Scarborough have to call their home ice Lewiston, you know there’s a shortage of ice,” said Falmouth Coach Deron Barton, whose squad was beaten by Scarborough 1-0 in last season’s Class A South final. “Scarborough is a great program with a great tradition. There needs to be another facility built in southern Maine, because the demand is certainly there.”

It’s no coincidence that programs with easy access to ice time are growing. Camden Hills, which practices less than two miles away from its high school at MidCoast Recreation Center in Rockport, recently added a JV squad. Coach Karl Enroth estimated that the Class B North school has about 30 players between its varsity and JV rosters.

“We’re one of the schools that has actually added numbers the past few years,” Enroth said. “The reason for that is because a rink was built in this area 11 years ago that produced the interest.”


New rinks are popping up here and there across the state. Casco Bay Arena – an unheated facility in Falmouth – opened last year next door to Family Ice Center, and the University of New England in Biddeford added a rink in 2012.

While rinks are mostly concentrated in southern Maine, a nonprofit group called Acadia Arena at Whitney Landing recently unveiled a plan to build a multi-purpose, indoor arena – which would include a rink – in Ellsworth.

“That’s always just been no-man’s land for hockey, and it’s a pretty big area,” Enroth said of Ellsworth. “If they have a rink and get the youth hockey thing going, you’d assume – at some point – Ellsworth would actually have a team.”

Unfortunately for the Red Storm, efforts to build a rink in Scarborough have been unsuccessful. But Scarborough forward Kyle Jacques is looking on the bright side. The senior said the long bus rides allow time for team bonding, as well as finishing homework.

Coffee and afternoon naps help after late nights.

“It’s a little bit of a difficult transition, but we’ll make it work and have a good season,” Jacques said. “After coming off two straight years of making it to (the state championship game), I think we want nothing short of that.”

Scarborough was unable to defend its 2015 state title against Lewiston when the Blue Devils scored the winner in the final 90 seconds, edging the Red Storm, 2-1.

After such a heartbreaker, Jacques said playing Lewiston on their shared home turf is “definitely going to be weird.”

“We might not have as many fans here as them, but it will still be a good atmosphere,” Jacques said. “We’ll just have to get used to it before playoffs.”

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