LEWISTON — By late Wednesday night, Gail Scipione Tarr was absolutely certain of one thing: The Maineiacs had not been sold. Rumors that the team was moving to Prince Edward Island were unsubstantiated.

End of story?


The unofficial spokeswoman for Lewy’s Legion, a group of hardcore fans, Tarr and others Wednesday night met with the team’s general manager to discuss the recent rumor. Though the team is not immediately bound for Canada, the news was bad, nonetheless.

“The team is really struggling financially,” Tarr said. “They’re broke. They don’t have enough fans and they don’t have enough support from the community.”

The next time rumors surface that the Maineiacs are leaving Lewiston, in other words, it could be for real. And most fans in the know believe it will happen sooner than later.

“These,” said Michelle Manson, a devoted fan and a billet mother to the players for the past seven years, “are very scary times for us.”

Few will question the passion of Lewy’s Legion. They are at every local game, no matter what the weather is like, no matter how the team is doing in the standings. They travel all over New England and into Canada to watch the team play.

“We’re rabid,” Tarr said. “There just aren’t enough of us. Attendance is not what it should be at all. Lewiston is not a hockey town like they say it used to be. And that’s really frustrating.”

The members of Lewy’s Legion are adamant: If the Maineiacs leave Lewiston, it won’t be just the fans who suffer. The community at large, whether or not they know the definition of “icing,” will be hurt.

“People don’t realize what this team brings to the community,” Manson said.

The players go to local schools and read to children. They take part in benefits and relief efforts. Their fans and families stay at local hotels. They go out to eat at restaurants like Gipper’s, LongHorn Steakhouse, Applebee’s. They go to movies.

“They shop,” Tarr said. “And shop and shop. They got out to eat. They stay at the Hilton. The community doesn’t realize what they’d be losing and that bugs me.”

The players, the coaches, the fans and the families are always out and about in Lewiston-Auburn, spending money and supporting local businesses. But it’s not always a two-way street, the fans insist.

“The businesses that reap all of these benefits,” Manson said, “don’t necessarily support the team back. And that’s really sad.”

Fans don’t know what it would take to fill seats at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

“The Maineiacs have even had special deals to try to get more people in the door, but they can’t fill the place,” said Brian Larochelle, a fan from Lewiston. “What else do you have to do in Lewiston that’s keeping people from going to a game? Now, if they leave, people will whine that there is nothing to do in Lewiston. You only have yourselves to blame.”

Those who follow the league say this year’s Maineiacs are among the best in the history of the franchise. They’ll almost certainly be going to the playoffs. They have a shot at the cup.

“It’s such good hockey,” Tarr said. “They’re a blast to watch. It’s amazing how many people don’t know that.”

But the financial crisis the team faces is worse than the fans thought, Tarr said.

Wednesday’s rumor and the subsequent meeting with the team made that clear. A city that once prided itself on its love of hockey may lose its most significant link to the sport because of sheer indifference.

“People should not take this as a sign that they shouldn’t go to the games,” Larochelle said, “but as a call to fill the stands to prove that we want to keep them here.”

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