Central Maine hockey players who finish high school will have a place to play closer to home before heading off to college, thanks to a new junior hockey team based out of the Kennebec Ice Arena in Hallowell.

The Maine Moose, who will skate in the America East Hockey League with seven other teams from across the Eastern seaboard and Canada, will begin play in September.

“We want kids who are playing high school to finish their high school careers,” said team president and co-owner Steve Levesque of Farmingdale. “The other kind of player we’re looking at are those players who don’t have a high school team to play on, who play midgets and then maybe stop. We’re not out to raid the high schools. We actually want to form a partnership with them, to help glean out the right kids. Junior hockey isn’t for everyone.”

Levesque has been an integral part of the Lewiston Maineiacs Development Council since the team arrived in Lewiston in 2003, but has since resigned his position there, saying it would be “too much” to try and devote the required effort to both ventures.

Still, Levesque isn’t going to forget about the Maineiacs, either. In fact, there is a chance the Moose and the Maineiacs might be able to form a partnership, almost like a minor-league affiliate program.

“That’s exactly the kind of relationship I’d envision with the Maineiacs,” said Levesque. “If they had kids on the protected list that they might want to see develop a little closer to home, we’d hope we’d be able to work something out where they could play (with the Moose). There may be some joint marketing opportunities, too.”

Maineiacs vice president and governor Matt McKnight agreed that something might be possible down the road.

“That kind of things happens in our league already, more predominantly among the Quebec teams,” said McKnight. “It’s going to depend on how this all plays out, but we’re certainly going to look into it.”

The bulk of the team, though, will consist of Maine skaters, those who might have otherwise gone to play junior hockey in Massachusetts, New Hampshire or Canada.

“Realistically, from a business and marketing perspective, the core will be from Lewiston to Bangor,” said Levesque. “There may be kids from Southern Maine who want to try other options, and I’ve taken calls from kids in Western Maine and Northern Maine, too.”

This varies from most junior programs, who mostly strive to snatch talent at its earliest point. Levesque and co-owner Tom McBrierty are aware of the diminishing talent pool in Maine high school hockey, and are trying not upset the balance between their team and the Maine Principal’s Association league.

“We want to form a partnership with them,” said Levesque, “not steal their players.”

The players will be of similar age to those playing for the Junior Pirates, and for the Maineiacs.

Currently, there are seven other teams in the league in Springfield, Lowell and Boston, Mass., Norwich, Conn., Exeter, N.H., New Jersey and West Island, Quebec (a suburb of Montreal). One of the players for West Island, Drew Laurie, played last season for Hebron Academy.

“The league’s goal is to develop into a true Junior A program, like the USHL and the NAHL are,” said Levesque.

To help in the team’s development, Allan Globensky, who once played in the QMJHL as well as for the Maine Nordiques of the North American Hockey League, has been hired as the director of player development and chief scout for the Moose.

The Moose have not hired a head coach, but several candidates have been interviewed, including some area high school coaches. Levesque would not release any names.

The team will hold a tryout on April 8-9 to select its roster.

The cost for the tryout is expected to be about $100, and the cost for any players making the team is expected to run between $5,000 and $6,000.

The team has a Web site up and running at www.moosemainea.com for anyone wanting more information.

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