LEWISTON — The Lewiston Maineiacs’ season starts earlier, begins at home and features several cost-effective road trips in 2010-11.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Friday released a draft of next season’s schedule, one day after posting preseason games on its Web site.
The Maineiacs will begin their eighth season with a home series against former coach Clem Jodoin and the Rimouski Oceanic on Friday, Sept. 10 and Saturday, Sept. 11 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, and will finish the season Sunday, March 20, 2011 in Chicoutimi.
“We’re very pleased with how the schedule turned out for the most part,” Lewiston general manager Roger Shannon said. “From a rivalry perspective, we’re seeing a lot of teams two nights in a row, which will help make things more exciting.”
In the absence of a team president during the scheduling process, Shannon said the staff collectively discussed preferences, and he said the team leaned a bit on athletic therapist and equipment manager Tom Bourdon, who has also arranged most of the team’s road trips in his six seasons with the club.
“His knowledge of how the team travels, where we stay and travel concerns was a big help,” Shannon said.
One of the early highlights of the team’s schedule is a four-games-in-five-nights road trip to Rouyn-Noranda and Val d’Or. Traditionally a two-trip affair, the Maineiacs last season consolidated the four games into one trip last year, and this season they’ve succeeded in moving the trip to the beginning of the season.
“Hopefully, the worst we can hope for with the weather then is rain,” Shannon said. “It is a hard enough trip on the players as it is, and this team has always gone up there in the middle of the winter.”
That trip this time around runs from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3.
Realignment has returned Lewiston to its original division within the league. The Maineiacs’ division now includes Baie-Comeau, Chicoutimi, Quebec, Rimouski and Victoiaville. The playoff format has also changed, and will no longer feature divisional matchups in the first round.
“It kind of helps us now that we’re in a division with some good teams,” Shannon said. “Because the level of competition throughout the season will be greater, which I think should better prepare us for the playoffs.”
The home schedule is, for now, tentative, Shannon explained. The team’s one request to the league was to host a game on Wednesday, Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving. The league has yet to confirm the Subway Super Series dates, and Nov. 24 is currently among the dates blacked out. If the Maineiacs are able to host a game on that date, one of the team’s other home games will be rescheduled.
“Traditionally that’s a strong weekend for us, and it was our top request to the league for a home date,” Shannon said.
In addition to the regular-season schedule, the Maineiacs also know where and when they will play in the preseason, a schedule that includes just one true home game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, the team’s first of the preseason on Aug. 21.
The team will also play home preseason dates in Riviere-de-Loup, Quebec on Aug. 27 and in Fredericton, New Brunswick on Sept. 3.
Shannon said the decision to play those games outside of Maine considered both financial and charity concerns.
“Last year, we made some money in Fredericton, and it helped to offset the costs of training camp a little bit,” Shannon said, “and we’ll be playing the defending President’s Cup champs in a market close to their home, which will help us, but also help grow the game for them. In Quebec, Patrick Roy puts on this game as a fundraiser for the town, and we drew in this year. We’d do it anyway, but he also compensates the team chosen to play in the game for the lost home game, which will again help us to offset some costs.
“Also, any chance you have to play a game in a non-league market, to help grow the game, it’s a good thing. Typically, teams draw well in those games, better than in their home markets for preseason games.”
Shannon also pointed out that since the time between the preseason-opener and the home-opener is so short, it won’t be as bad as if the games were more than a month apart.
The Maineiacs expect to open training camp on August 18, with a few changes to the players’ experience.
“More off the ice, we’re going to do a full day of orientation, we’ll have a guest speaker come in for them, and we’re really going to pump up training camp,” Shannon said. “We’ll put a little bit more emphasis on off-ice training and fitness. It’s going to be a little bit tougher.”