Players gather while Coach Terrence Wallin explains a drill during a preseason practice in Portland in October. “These kids are watching the Bruins on NESN every night, and it just kind of trickles down,” Wallin says of the Mariners’ affiliation with the Boston Bruins. “You can feel the momentum in and around Portland about hockey up here.” Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

When Adam Goldberg heard from former Maine Mariners president and governor Daniel Briere that the Boston Bruins were interested in an affiliate relationship, he knew it was the news his team had been waiting to hear.

Two years later, that hasn’t changed.

“I immediately thought ‘That’s a game-changer,'” said Goldberg, the Mariners’ vice president of business operations. “It’s so painfully obvious that this is Bruins country. The fans really rallied behind it.”

That connection will continue as the Bruins announced Monday that they extended their affiliation with the Mariners through the 2024-25 season. The Mariners, who play in the ECHL, are the Bruins’ second-tier affiliate behind the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.

“We were really happy and excited to extend it, and the Bruins were really happy with the relationship as well,” Goldberg said.

The Mariners became an affiliate of the Bruins on June 30, 2021, Prior to that, the Mariners were an affiliate of the New York Rangers. Goldberg said becoming tied to the local NHL team was good for business.


“To have (the parent teams) in Boston and Providence now is great, both geographically and fanbase-wise,” Goldberg said. “We have a lot of Bruins fans that … (weren’t) opposed to coming to a Mariners game when we were affiliated with the Rangers, but it just makes a lot more sense from the fandom standpoint now to buy tickets for the Mariners.”

Attendance for home games at Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena is up about 33% from last year, Goldberg said. This season the Mariners are averaging 3,813 fans at home games, compared to 2,851 in 2021-22.

“That’s a pretty substantial rise,” he said. “I think we’re in the running to have the highest attendance increase in the league this year.”

The close proximity of the affiliates makes it easier for players to go up and down the ladder, said Mariners Coach Terrence Wallin. Goalie Michael DiPietro is under contract with the Bruins and playing in Maine, and defenseman Sean Day and goalie Jon Gillies also played in the NHL after stints with the Mariners.

“The players in Providence who (could) come play for us, they now have the trust in us that we’re going to develop their players and set them up for success when they get to the next level,” Wallin said.

The Mariners have clinched a spot in the ECHL playoffs for the second straight season with a 38-25-2-1 record. Maine is third in the North division with six games left on the schedule. The playoffs will start soon after the regular-season finale on April 16.

Wallin said the continued affiliation will help hockey grow in Maine.

“It’s a really good time to have the affiliation, because all three teams are playing really well,” he said. “These kids are watching the Bruins on NESN every night, and it just kind of trickles down. … You can feel the momentum in and around Portland about hockey up here.”

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