Maine Mariners goalie Brandon Halvorson makes a save in the first period of a game against the Worcester Railers in December 2018. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

The Maine Mariners are expected to announce Wednesday that they are becoming an affiliate of the Boston Bruins.

The Press Herald confirmed the Bruins’ affiliation Tuesday afternoon, hours before news broke that the New York Rangers are out as the affiliate of Portland’s minor-league hockey team.

The Mariners had scheduled an affiliation announcement Wednesday morning at Cross Insurance Arena, and all signs point to the Bruins completing the trifecta of partnerships between professional sports teams in Greater Portland and their parent clubs in Boston.

The Sea Dogs are Double-A baseball partners of the Red Sox. The Red Claws recently changed their name to the Maine Celtics to better reflect their basketball relationship with the Boston Celtics.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Jacksonville Icemen announced a change in their ECHL affiliation from the Winnipeg Jets to the Rangers.

Nobody with the Mariners would publicly confirm the new partnership Tuesday. But when given the opportunity to deny that the Mariners would become a Bruins affiliate, two officials of the team declined to do so.

Since 2015, the Atlanta Gladiators have been the Bruins’ ECHL affiliate. Based in Duluth, Georgia, the Gladiators halted play in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, as did the Mariners.

The Mariners first hit the ice in Portland in 2018 as a Rangers affiliate and remained so through the 2019-20 season, which was cut short with the team on the verge of its first playoff run. Montreal also sent an occasional prospect to Portland, as did a few other NHL organizations without ECHL affiliates.

The original Maine Mariners played in the American Hockey League, one step above the ECHL, and were affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers from 1977 to 1983, the New Jersey Devils until 1987, and (as an expansion franchise) the Boston Bruins until 1992. The franchise subsequently moved to Rhode Island to become the Providence Bruins.

By adding the Mariners as an ECHL partner, the Boston Bruins would have their top two farm clubs within an easy drive of TD Garden.

Adam Goldberg, vice president of business operations for the Mariners, would not confirm the Bruins’ affiliation but had this to say about Wednesday’s announcement: “I think the fan base will be excited. I think the media will be excited. It makes a lot of sense for us.”

Chris Roy, a season-ticket holder from South Portland, said a Mariners-Bruins partnership makes a lot of sense from a marketing standpoint.

“I think it will help attract more fans into the arena, and at the end of the day that’s the game,” he said. “From what I know of the Bruins’ minor league affiliate at the ECHL level, I don’t see a ton of prospects, but the Mariners filled out their own roster.”

Scott Prue of North Waterboro has been a season-ticket holder since the AHL Portland Pirates played at what was then the Cumberland County Civic Center. Although he grew up in Maine, he was never a Bruins fan. Grudgingly, he said he would change.

“I’m not going to like it, but I’ll do it,” he said.

Prue said he has been hearing talk for months about the Mariners becoming affiliated with the Bruins.

“We’re going with the Bruins,” he said assuredly. “And you’ll see an increase in attendance with having the Bruins there. There’s no doubt about it.”

Andrew Hart of South Portland, another season-ticket holder, sides with Prue.

“Let’s be honest, this area loves the Bruins, so the Bruins coming in is going to be good for business,” he said. “And whatever helps put people into the building is always going to be a plus, no matter what my feelings are about the Bruins’ organization.”

Hart said he figured Wednesday’s announcement alone would result in another few hundred season tickets being sold. Coming on the heels of a pandemic-forced year without hockey, he said a new partnership would be “a refreshing start to a restart of the Mariners’ operation.”


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