Cameron Critchlow sounded as close to tears as he ever had.

“They really pulled the sheet over us on this one,” the former Lewiston Maineiacs’ captain said as he heard news of the team’s dissolution. “It’s (bad) for everyone, especially for all the players most of all. The fans, you have to feel for them as well. They did all they could. There are a lot of faithful fans in Lewiston.”

The players those fans loved and cheered by all coped Tuesday night and into Wednesday with the news that the team that they’d helped build and define, and indeed a team that had helped to define them as young men, was gone.

“We did have a great group of guys. We had a great time together and we really bonded,” Critchlow said. “It was the best team I’d ever been a part of, for sure.”

Critchlow wasn’t alone.

Players up and down the Maineiacs’ talented roster — many prognosticators across the league had already penciled Lewiston in as a title co-favorite next season — came to grips with the circumstances as the night wore on.

Late Tuesday, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League announced that it had purchased the Maineiacs from majority owner Mark Just and minority owners Wendell Young and Paul Spellman, and was then going to disband the team.

The players on the roster will be distributed across the league’s remaining 17 teams via a dispersal draft, ending many of the players’ hopes at a title run.

“It breaks my heart for the kids,” Just said Tuesday. “This is a special group of players.”

The players felt the same way.

“It’s really disappointing,” defenseman Sam Carrier said. “We had a team to go all the way next year and a great bunch of guys. We had hope we could stay together until the last minute.”

“I was shocked. I didn’t believe it could actually happen,” forward Michael Chaput said. “It’s disappointing considering the team we were going to have and the group of guys that was so great.”

Chaput was one of three family members at one time associated with the Maineiacs. Older brother Stefan, now with the Providence Bruins of the AHL, played in Lewiston. Their father, Alain, was at one time the team’s governor.

But in many other ways, the team was also a family for Chaput.

“That team was built around a theme that was, we are all a family,” Chaput said. “I knew everyone. It was exactly like being at home when I was in Lewiston. I also had great billets. I’m sad to be leaving that place.”

Critchlow has it particularly tough. One of five Maineiacs who would play in the QMJHL next season as 20-year-olds, he faces the prospect of perhaps not being selected in the upcoming dispersal draft.

“I could not have a team to play for, on a personal level,” Critchlow said. “There are only three 20-year-olds on each team and there are a lot of good players out there, especially when they like to keep guys who are already on their teams and stick with them. I can’t see too many teams looking for 20-year-olds in a dispersal draft, so that kind of puts me in a tight situation.”

Other 20-year-olds now available include 53-goal man Etienne Brodeur, forward Pierre-Olivier Morin and defensemen Sam Finn and Jonathan Parisien.

Critchlow summed up his and others’ feeling with a farewell post on Facebook late Tuesday night.

“Thanks to all the beauts who I played with this year, easily my favorite year of junior,” Critchlow wrote. “Heartbreaking to see it end like this when we were going to win it all. I will miss all the boys and have memories of this year throughout my whole life, and thank you to all of the fans who made my time in Lewiston the very best all of your support. This is tough, going to miss all my boys!”


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