The Portland Press Herald is reporting that talks are progressing on the city getting an ECHL franchise in time for the 2017-18 season.
The move would replace an the Portland Pirates AHL franchise, which was sold to a group of investors and moved to Springfield, MA shortly after their AHL season concluded in early May.
According to the report, a group led by Godfrey Wood (former GM & President of the Pirates) and Neal Pratt (a trustee of Cross Insurance Arena) are in “various stages of discussion” to buy an existing ECHL franchise and move it to Portland in time for the 2017-18 season.
Wood told the Press Herald that the team has been contacted and price worked out, but firm details will not be released until the rest of the investor group has been put together and lease agreement worked out with Cross Insurance Arena. Wood would not disclose the name of the franchise they have been in contact with.
Should the move happen, the Portland franchise will join Worcester, MA as new franchises starting play in the 2017-18 season. They would join the Elmira Jackals, Brampton Beast, Manchester Monarchs, Adirondack Thunder, and Reading Royals in the rapidly-growing northeast market for the ECHL.
In addition to local rivals, the move to the ECHL for Portland would be more cost-efficient. There are no affiliation fees for ECHL clubs, plus owners and general managers control how much of the $12,600 salary cap will be spent.
The Sin Bin reached out to ECHL Spokesperson Joe Babik for comment on this story, who said “The ECHL is aware of behind the scenes work in Portland to try to secure a lease, but at this time, nothing has been presented to the League or Board of Governors.”
It should be noted that the only major team-related business voted on by the ECHL Board of Governors at their meeting in February was to approve the move of the Evansville IceMen to Owensboro, KY and for them to go “dark” for one season, in light of a problem raising funds for the renovation of the Owensboro Sports Center.
Since then, Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne announced he is retiring at the end of the year and at the time of this writing, construction to renovate the Sports Center has yet to begin.
IceMen team owner Ron Geary has denied rumors that the team has been sold.
So for the time being, the team’s identity will remain a secret.