Tomorrow, as one loveable, red-headed moptop once told us, is only a day away.

So, too, is the return of Lewiston-Auburn’s franchise.

The Lewiston Maineiacs are due back Tuesday. They’ll attend a community function at the Hilton Garden Inn in the eveneing, meet their billets (for some temporary) Tuiesday night, and hit the ground running (quite literally) with fitness evaluations and dryland testing on Wednesday.

The team’s return to the ice will come Thursday morning in the first of three open-to-the-public morning practice sessions. The latest roster is available here.

For many people, the arrival of the Maineiacs in town may signal the end of summer, almost as sure as does the arrival of high school fall sports practice for our area prep athletes (which, by the way, is today, Monday, Aug. 16). But those of us who have been around this team from the beginning, and many more who have picked the team up since then, know that’s not necessarily the case. All the team does by being in town in August is give area hockey fans the best of both worlds: Summertime and hockey.

In a departure from past years, primarily, it appears, as an olive branch to the loyal fans that have remained supportive of the team through the hodgepodge of negativity of the last couple of years, the team this year will accept donations as payment for the intrasquad games Thursday night and Friday night, and Saturday’s preseason exhibition game against Victoriaville is just $5 a head for adults, and free for children under 12.

That in itself is a gesture of faith and goodwill from the team.

It’s also the only chance hockey fans are going to have to see the team in game action before Clem Jodoin and company come to town for opening weekend. The remaining six games on the team’s preseason schedule, including two “home” games, will be played in Canada.

And before people fly off the deep end with rumors, here’s why: Money. Pure and simple. The team will be Patrick Roy’s guest as the home team in an exhibition game against the Quebec Remparts, the proceeds of which go to charity. The team is likely well-compensated for its appearance. Then, there is the team’s “home” game in Fredericton, a hockey-hungry town that has a championship-caliber team of its own in UNB. UNB hasn’t begun its season yet, and the opponent in that game, Moncton, has a following there. In addition, the team sold out its last appearance there, and the team has strong ties to the town, as GM Roger Shannon and fitness/goalie coach Reg Bourcier, among others, have ties to both UNB and Fredericton.

These, of course, supplement the three “away” games also scheduled.

Between these games, though, the team will be, for the most part, practicing right here at the Colisee, and as usual, all practices are open to the public.

There is a lot to digest here, a lot to think about and a lot to process. But the main line here, really, is that hockey is back. For the die-hards, it’s a touch overdue. For the casual fan, perhaps a bit early. But for a team and an organization apparently finally standing on its own two feet, albeit perhaps a bit wobbly at first, this training camp the the beginning of hockey season couldn;t come at a better time.

The rebirth and regrowth of this franchise had to start somewhere.

It has.

It’s passed through the stage of awe and wonder. The team has rolled onto its stomach for the first time, propped itself up on its hands and knees and begun to motor around the house on its own. By the end of the week, perhaps that first, coffee-table-aided step or two.

It hasn’t been easy, but it’s getting there. The team will need some help — from its fans, and from the community — to ween itself from what negative public perception remains, toi take that first step on its own.

It’s up to the fans and the community, now.

Hockey is back, and it’s up to you to decide for how long.

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