Four groups are interested in returning professional hockey to Portland, and Cross Insurance Arena trustees are meeting next week to review their proposals.

Mitchell Berkowitz, chair of the arena’s board of trustees, said Wednesday that the board’s Strategic Development Committee will meet in executive session Monday to review “what we believe are (four) reasonable proposals” and will make a recommendation at the board’s next full meeting on March 8.

“It may mean we deal with one,” Berkowitz said. “It may mean we deal with the top two, or it may mean we continue with all (four). We’re not sure yet.”

All four interested parties are believed to be proposing bringing an ECHL franchise to Portland. Any such approval by the league would require a tentative lease agreement with a suitable arena.

The ECHL, which began in 1988 as the East Coast Hockey League with five teams in four states, has expanded to 27 teams in 21 states and one Canadian province. Portland has been without pro hockey since the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates were sold last May and relocated to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Berkowitz said all discussions concerning any potential ownership groups would be held in executive session in order to protect any proprietary business information that could be part of the proposals. He said the board’s goals are to get a long-term, sustainable tenant for the arena at the most favorable terms while also acknowledging the need for the franchise to be a successful business operation.

None of the groups includes former Pirates general manager Godfrey Wood, who was most public about his desire to organize an investor ownership group to bring pro hockey back to Portland.

“I did not put a proposal in,” Wood said Wednesday. “I’d like to be helpful to whoever goes forward, if somebody does.”

The board sent out a six-page request for proposals a month ago with a deadline to reply by Tuesday. One of the proposals beat the deadline by just 15 minutes, Berkowitz said.

As a minor league, the ECHL is considered one step below the AHL in terms of talent. All but one franchise is affiliated with a National Hockey League parent club. The league expects to have 28 teams for the 2017-18 season, with the addition of Worcester (by expansion) and Jacksonville (moved from Evansville) and the subtraction of Alaska (folding).

Berkowitz said Wednesday he had yet to see the proposals, so he doesn’t know whether the availability of the Alaska franchise may play a role for a potential team in Portland.

“We’re hoping that plays positively for us,” he said.

Joe Gray, the retired city manager of Portland, has taken over for Neal Pratt as chair of the Strategic Development Committee. Pratt had served 15 years on the arena board and did not seek reappointment. Other committee members are Portland City Manager Jon Jennings, Sue Witonis and Dale Olmstead, the board’s contract compliance manager.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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