Giant lobsters, super hero nights and $2 hot dogs are back in Portland this winter.

More specifically, Portland’s professional basketball and hockey teams, the Maine Celtics and the Maine Mariners, are back in action. Before opening their seasons this fall, neither the Celtics (formerly the Maine Red Claws) nor the Mariners had played a game on their home court or home ice since March 2020.

So, in that time, you might have forgotten what a fun night out a minor league hockey game or basketball game in Portland can be. The games are sporting contests, with all the excitement sports brings. The Mariners are a minor-league affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and the Celtics are a minor league team of the Boston Celtics. So it’s a pretty high level of competition.

Beacon, the Maine Mariners mascot, with fans during a game. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

But the games are also packed with family entertainment. How else would you describe prancing or skating mascots, puck-chucking contests, ear-splitting music and concession stand comfort food?

The Mariners play in the Cross Insurance Arena, owned by Cumberland County, and the Celtics play in the Portland Expo, owned by the city. Both venues are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. At the Expo, the city is requiring masks while at the Cross Insurance Arena they are recommended. It’s a good idea to check the latest COVID measures or restrictions before heading out to a game on the teams’ websites: marinersofmaine.com and maine.gleage.nba.com

You’ll also find ticket prices and information on the various promotions and giveaways being offered at specific games. Tickets to Celtics games start at $10, while Mariners tickets begin at $10 for kids and $18 for adults. Here are some highlights of the family fun offered by both teams this winter.

Stone Solari, 7, and Trey Tanguay 8, both of Gorham cheer on the Maine Celtics during the team’s first home game of the season. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

THE MORE THE MARINERS

The Mariners make things fun with some pretty creative special theme nights. Friday’s 7:15 p.m. game against the Worcester Railers, for instance, is Marvel Super Hero night. There will be Marvel super hero posters given to the first 1,000 fans, and the Mariners will wear special “Black Panther” jerseys for the game. As with all Friday games, there will be concession specials, including $1 popcorn, $2 hot dogs and $3 Bud Light drafts through the start of the second period.

There will be a Kids Club Day on Dec. 29 at 3 p.m., during holiday school vacation week. There’s a post-game family skate. Some members of Beacon’s Kids Club will get to do public address announcements and others will get to watch warm-ups from the bench. Plus, there will be a Mariners silicone bracelet giveaway.

Fans are excited to be back at Maine Mariners games this year. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

On Jan. 8, the Mariners will give away bobbleheads of Beacon the Puffin to the first 1,000 fans. Beacon is the team’s person-sized mascot who can be seen frolicking with fans at games. Other upcoming themes include a Bruins’ affiliation day on Jan. 9, where fans are encouraged to wear Bruins’ colors and the Mariners will too, another post-game family skate on Jan. 22, a “Star Wars” night on Jan. 29 and an “underwear toss” on Jan. 30. The latter features fans tossing packages of newly-bought underwear onto the ice, to benefit Preble Street, a social services provider in Portland.

All Saturday and Sunday games offer Family Four Packs. For $88, a family gets four tickets, four food vouchers and four pucks for the between-period Chuck-a-Puck event. That’s when thousands of people throw their rubber pucks onto the ice at the same time, trying to land on, or closest to, a target at center ice. Anyone can enter by paying $1 per puck or $5 for six. The winner gets half that night’s proceeds.

For more information, go to marinersofmaine.com.

The lobster pot toss is a feature of Maine Celtics games. The event is seen here when the team was the Maine Red Claws. Photo by Rich Obrey/NBAE via Getty Images

CRUSHING IT

Portland’s pro basketball team has changed its name from Maine Red Claws to Maine Celtics but still has the same mascot, Crusher. The difference is now the person-sized lobster is green, the color of the Boston Celtics. Keeping with the lobster theme, the Celtics have a Lobster Pot Toss event, where people buy small balls – $5 for three – and toss them all at once toward a lobster trap. People who land in the trap get a prize – a Maine Celtics T-shirt, sunglasses or maybe a hat. People whose ball lands in the pot inside the trap get bigger prizes, like a Maine Celtics blanket, for example.

The Maine Celtics offer some cool fan experience packages for people who purchase tickets in groups. If you by tickets for 200 more folks, you get to play or perform on court at half-time. If you bring a group of 75 or more, you can play or perform on court before the game. If you bring a group of 15, your group will be shown on the video board as the Celtics take the court, and you can have your photo taken at center court. Plus, every group of 15 or more gets a free Maine Celtics hat, for each person.

Fans cheer on the Maine Celtics during a game against the Delaware Blue Coats in November. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Also, just in time for Christmas, the Celtics are offering three-game holiday plans to give as gifts. You can choose from three Saturday or Sunday games in January and February and get a free Maine Celtics scarf and a Dunkin gift card. Prices start at $21 per ticket.

Upcoming Maine Celtics games include a special holiday-themed night on Dec. 17 and an afternoon matinee on New Year’s Eve. If you have young basketball fans who can’t stay up too late, there will also be matinees Jan. 2, 9 and 15.

For more information, go to maine.gleague.nba.com.


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