Tomatoes will be flying through the air, giant puffins and lobsters will be strolling about, and somebody may win $10,000 just for showing up.

There’s a lot going on at Maine sports arenas this winter, not to mention some pretty exciting hockey and basketball as well.

Freddie, the Maine Nordiques mascot, fires up the crowd. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Sports fans already know about the great opportunities around Maine this time of year to see competitive minor league teams in action. Portland has the Maine Mariners hockey team and Maine Red Claws basketball team, while Lewiston has the Maine Nordiques hockey team, playing its first season.

All three provide exciting sports action, plus all sorts of fun and entertainment, including ways to let fans get involved. The Nordiques’ season ends in early March, the Red Claws’ in late March and the Mariners’ in April. So there’s plenty of time left to get out and see a game.

Here, then, is a primer on the three teams and some of the fun things happening at their home arenas.

MAINE MARINERS

The Maine Mariners are a minor-league hockey team, affiliated with the New York Rangers of the NHL, and play their home games at Cross Insurance Arena on Spring Street in Portland. Most tickets are $17 to $24. A Family 4 Pack starts at $80 and includes four tickets, as well as hot dogs, chips and soda or water for four people, and four Mariners’ can koozies.

It’s easy to appreciate the fast skating and hard hitting of a hockey game, even if you’re not an expert. But besides the action on the ice, the Mariners offer all kinds of other things to keep fans engaged.

There’s Beacon, the colorful puffin mascot goofing around with fans. There’s the public address announcer getting the crowd whipped up by yelling, “Woooo” after goals are scored. There’s the Toss a Tomato contest every game, after the second period, where people buy little rubber “tomatoes” for $1 and then throw them on the ice. If your tomato hits the right spot on the ice, you win a prize, including cash, a pizza from Portland Pie Comany or some tomatoes from Backyard Farms. And during the two intermissions, you can watch the Zamboni, the giant ice-smoothing machine, drive circles around the ice. Plus, you can browse the concession stands for souvenirs, maybe a puck or team hat.

Teddy bears on ice, part of a promotion at a Maine Mariners game. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Then there are the specific game promotions and giveaways. On Saturday, there will be free drink tumblers, with the team logo, for the first 2,000 fans. On Sunday, the team will host a Kids Run the Show game. Kids who register on the team’s website could be picked to help by doing announcements, running music in the production booth and more.

And during all three games this Friday through Sunday, a fan could win $10,000. One fan will be picked to play a game of chance, with nine sealed envelopes. If the fan picks the three envelopes that have Mariners logos inside, they win. Promotions and give aways continue all season long. For more information, go to mainersofmaine.com

MAINE NORDIQUES

The Maine Nordiques are a junior hockey team filled with high school aged players who will go on to play at major colleges. So they are young and hungry. The team, in its first season, plays at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Birch Street in Lewiston. The team mascot, Freddie, is a furry abominable snowman-type creature that visits with fans. The team’s gear is the same colors of the old NHL Quebec Nordiques, light blue and red. Tickets are $9, $8 for kids and seniors.

The Maine Nordiques are in their first season in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

A family of four can have a fairly affordable night out by buying a Family 4 pack for $52. It includes four game tickets, four sodas and four hot dogs.

Friday is Super Hero Night, when kids are encouraged to dress up like their favorite super hero.

On Jan. 31, the team will host one of its Wing Crusher Challenges, basically a chicken wing eating contest. Four hungry fans, picked from people who sign up in advance on the team website, will try to be the first to polish off 10 wings in less than three minutes as the crowd cheers them on.  There have been several challenges throughout the season, with winners from each game vying for a championship at the Colisee on March 6. Also, on Wing Crusher Challenge night, Bud and Bud Light cans are $2. For more information, go to mainenordiques.com

Lucky the Leprechaun, the Celtics mascot, poses with Crusher, the Maine Red Claws mascot. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

MAINE RED CLAWS

The Maine Red Claws basketball team is an affiliate of the Boston Celtics, so you could see players who will be in the big time pretty soon. Or you could see some very big players who are also in the big time right now, like 7-foot-5-inch center Tacko Fall, who has been playing for both the Red Claws and Celtics this season.

The team plays home games at the Portland Expo on Park Avenue in Portland. Most tickets are $10 to $30, but games can sell out and you might see tickets being resold online for much higher prices. So it’s a good idea to buy in advance.

Games include performances by a 10-member dance team, the Lady Red Claws. Also dazzling the crowd is Crusher, the mascot, a basketball-carrying lobster wearing a Red Claws uniform. His favorite song is “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s, according to the Red Claws website. For more information, go to maine.gleague.nba.com

The Maine Red Claws are an affiliate of the Boston Celtics. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer


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