LEWISTON – Lewiston Maineiacs’ team President Matt McKnight somersaulted through the tunnel leading from the locker room to the ice.

Team owner Mark Just broke into tears.

Head Coach and GM Clem Jodoin turned to his players, got down onto one knee and pumped his fist as he turned a bright shade of red, his grin widening all the while.

And the fans, who easily numbered more than 1,000, cheered. And cheered. And cheered.

For the first time since the Maineiacs won the 2007 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League President’s Cup on Wednesday, the team gathered at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Saturday night to celebrate with the people who have applauded their every move all season.

“Those who know me, know I am emotional,” Just said, choking through the opening part of his speech. “All I can say is, I’ve dreamed about this for 13 years, and the feeling I had Wednesday night in Val-d’Or was more unbelievable than what I thought it would be in any of the dreams I had.”

The crowd erupted again.

“Four years ago, I was about as low as I am high today,” Just said.

Jodoin was equally taken aback by the show of support Saturday.

“Without fans, there is no game,” Jodoin said. “You are why we are having a game in Lewiston. If the Maineiacs put a smile on your face, they did their job. If the Maineiacs brought some joy in your life, they did their job. If the Maineiacs brought you emotion, and feeling, entertainment, they did their job.”

In an uncharacteristically boisterous moment for Jodoin, the skipper turned his attention to next week’s Mastercard Memorial Cup Tournament in Vancouver.

“We have one more job that we have to get done,” boomed Jodoin. “It’s the Memorial Cup, and in two weeks, we’ll be back here all together with another Cup, right here.”

Maineiacs’ captain Marc-Andre Cliche and defenseman Chad Denny each addressed the crowd, too. They, along with 20-year-old forward Pierre-Luc Faubert were the team’s first three draft picks in 2003, after the organization announced its move from Sherbrooke.

Faubert helped fellow 20-year-olds Simon Courcelles and Triston Manson carry the cup from the locker room, though the tunnel and into the arena to thunderous applause. The rest of the team, who rink announcer Ernie Gagne announced one-by-one, all turned from their seats at a long, head table and applauded it, too.

“The little things make the big things,” Jodoin went on to say. “We are not a club, we’re a team, and it’s always been the purpose, and the goal that we had.”

After the formal part of the rally, everyone in attendance had the chance to line up and have the players sign autographs, and to take a picture with the trophy.

Just tried to sneak away, but fans continued to stop him, too, thanking him and congratulating him on the team’s success.

“I’ve been around professional sports, I’ve won World Series Championships (as a scout with the Baltimore Orioles in 1983),” Just said, “but I never saw a group of young men who were raised as well as this group has been, and they’ve showed it on the ice.”

The team resumes practice today at the Colisee at 2 p.m., and is scheduled to leave for Vancouver on Wednesday.

The team’s first game of the Memorial Cup tournament is on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. Eastern Time against the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League.


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