Initially viewed by many hockey fans in southern Maine as potential adversaries, the Lewiston Maineiacs and Portland Pirates turned into pretty good friends in the hockey world over the years, reaching the height of that goodwill when the Maineiacs placed a bid to host the Canadian Hockey League’s Mastercard Memorial Cup in 2008.
Now, with Lewiston’s franchise in apparent trouble, Pirates’ owner Brian Petrovek is attempting to extend a helping hand.
“We’ve been having conversations with various folks representing the team, primarily with Bill Schurman and Paul Spellman, about an interest in perhaps taking on some sales and marketing opportunities going into a new season,” Petrovek said. “That’s been our focus over the last couple of months. We’ve had a series of discussions, but nothing to where we think we have an agreement on trying to do something.”
Petrovek made clear, though, that any discussions he’s had with the Maineiacs to date have been management- and marketing-related, and not discussions of ownership. He also said Saturday that dialogue with the team, and with majority owner Mark Just, has been an on-and-off reality since the Maineiacs relocated to Lewiston from Sherbrooke, Quebec, in 2003. Those talks quieted some after Petrovek unsuccessfully attempted to purchase the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
“We’ve maintained open dialogue with Mark Just for years now about working together, and working together can sometimes move toward some kind of an ownership position,” Petrovek said. “But we’ve never had any kind of conversation about that specifically. When we were unsuccessful in buying the building, we quieted some of those concepts and some of those interests, but of late, as our sales have grown, and as our sales arm has taken on properties in Augusta, we thought it might be an opportunity to revisit ways where we could collaborate, perhaps take on some of the sales, marketing, management and a range of products we’d be interested in finding ways we could work together, if that was of interest. But the ownership issue, there’s been no discussion. We haven’t been approached to enter into those conversations, either.”
Maineiacs’ minority owner Paul Spellman, who entered the fold as a minority owner last summer, knew of Petrovek’s interest in forging a symbiotic relationship between the two clubs, and has been working to facilitate such a marriage.
“Brian contacted me several weeks ago about the possibility of forming some synergies between the two teams,” Spellman said. “He and I had several discussions about that, and probably more importantly, the larger picture, what it would take to make two teams forty minutes apart financially viable entities. He genuinely wants to have a healthy major junior team in Lewiston. His ideas include some out-of-the box scenarios, particularly as it relates to the sports industry. Again, these were preliminary discussions but I think each of us felt it would be very encouraging for the two markets.”
And while Petrovek said his interest is not necessarily that of an outright buyer, he made perfectly clear Saturday his desire for the team to remain a part of Maine’s hockey landscape.
“If there’s a way for us to get involved and help, we want to keep the Maineiacs in Lewiston,” Petrovek said. “It’s good for us, it’s good for business, it’s a great product, and if there are some challenges, maybe we can help solve some of them. That’s not to say we have answers to all of the challenges, and we certainly have our own, but I wish we had a better handle on what’s going on and I wish I had a better sense of how we can help before it’s too late, if that’s the unfortunate reality.”