LEWISTON — Same team, same location, new name — one that is the same as an old, well-known and time-honored name in Lewiston-Auburn hockey lore.
Hockey fans, meet your Lewiston/Auburn Nordiques.
Androscoggin Bank Colisee owner and operator Jim Cain has confirmed his purchase of the L/A Fighting Spirit of the North American 3 Hockey League, a team he will rebrand under the Nordiques banner once the current season is over.
The purchase ends a tumultuous couple of months for Cain and his Firland Management enterprise. Fighting Spirit owner and head coach Rod Simmons was looking to divest himself of the team after enduring a personal loss this winter, Cain was looking for a buyer while simultaneously looking at different league options.
“After a lot of discussion among my family and the rest, where we had entertained the notion of selling off a piece of the Colisee to someone else in return for solidifying junior hockey here, we looked again at the opportunity of buying the Fighting Spirit,” Cain said. “We’ve done that now, and we’re going to rebrand under the L/A Nordiques banner, which is very suitable for this market, it’s something people can identify with, it has a long history here.”
The Maine Nordiques were a professional team that operated within the old North American Hockey League from 1973 to 1977, based at the Central Maine Youth Center, now the Colisee. The Nordiques served as a farm club for the Quebec Nordiques of the World Hockey Association.
Forty years later, the Nordiques name — and logo — will make its return to the cities.
The team itself will continue playing in the NA3HL, a Tier III junior league with a footprint that includes teams from Montana to Maine.
The league, Cain said, is familiar to him and his company.
“I went through the second of three interviews with the league now, and we’ve passed muster every time,” Cain said. “I’ve been around this league for a long time now, almost 20 years, and so it’s not as if it’s new to us as a company.”
And, like the past few years, the Nordiques will continue to use billet families in its pay-to-play model.
“We’re still going to use the traditional billet model, where players will be housed in the community,” Cain said. “We think that’s valuable for both the team and its reputation, its depth in the community and its service to the community.”
The Nordiques will also retain a big piece of this year’s coaching staff — former local standout Cam Robichaud, who cut his teeth coaching in the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs program after finishing his playing career.
“We’ll be retaining Cam Robichaud, who I believe is both solid as a coach and in character,” Cain said. “I think he can grow this business here in a sustainable way, and it makes a lot of sense for us.”
“I’m definitely excited,” Robichaud said. “It’s a perk to be able to continue coaching in my hometown, where I played before my own junior career.
“I’m real excited not only to have the team right here in Lewiston, but to be able to work with Jim himself. He’s a well respected, highly connected person in hockey communities, and he’s been a mentor for me, and we chat daily.”
Even with three games remaining as the Fighting Spirit, like any coach in hockey, Robichaud already has an eye on the future of the organization.
“Cam has identified some very, very good young men who are in the local market, meaning in New England, who can help us out,” Cain said. “(Robichaud) spent six years with the Monarchs’ organization, which is a very, very good coaching organization, and he comes with a lot more skill than many people recognize, and we’re really pleased that he’ll be able to use his leadership skills to move on.”
“You never really stop recruiting,” Robichaud said. “You’re always kind of keeping your eyes and ears open, and as soon as I caught wind that I would be the head guy, I started doing a little bit more on the recruiting side, getting in touch with some of my contacts with the Eastern League, guys that I’ve developed relationships with over the years.”
The Fighting Spirit’s final home game of the regular season is Friday against the Biddeford-based Maine Wild at 7 p.m. They are locked in a battle with the Northeast Generals for the fourth and final playoff position in the Coastal division.