It’s not hyperbole to say that what the Portland Pirates are going to announce Thursday afternoon during a news conference at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee could have ramifications across North America.

The impending announcement from the Pirates includes alterations to their 2013-14 schedule, ostensibly including shifting previously-scheduled dates and times in some way to accommodate more games — perhaps the entirety of their home schedule — at the Lewiston facility.

This impacts every team scheduled to visit the Pirates this season. It impacts the Phoenix Coyotes, who send their prospects and injured and rehabbing players to the AHL team for development and recovery. And it impacts the players themselves, who would have to try and find a balance between training in Saco and playing games in Lewiston.

But as hyperbolic as that sounds, the impact the announcement might have on Lewiston/Auburn is even greater.

A community that once proclaimed itself to be the hockey capital of Maine — and rightfully so — had a chance to prove that when one of the best teams ever to skate in the state called the Colisee home. For eight seasons, save for the team’s championship run in 2006-07, the Lewiston Maineiacs’ home games were among the lowest attended home games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

That, combined with financial instability among ownership and a thinly-veiled resentment of an American team among the league elite, led to the team’s demise. There is little doubt that the Maineiacs will be the QMJHL’s only foray to the area.

The team’s die-hard fans — the die-hard hockey fans in Lewiston/Auburn — have clamored for a replacement. Some say they’d rather have true professional hockey at some level. Others say they prefer the high-level junior brand.

Thursday, if the Pirates do, in fact, tell the world they plan to play 38 home games (plus any residual playoff games) in Lewiston, the area hockey community will be getting a tremendous second chance, one that it perhaps doesn’t necessarily deserve, but one it should relish and of which it should take advantage from start to finish.

The Pirates are already committed to 13 home games in Lewiston. Twenty-five more games would bring 25 times more fans to the area, 25 times the residual revenue for surrounding businesses and 25 times the exposure, not only in the local media, but in media covering the league across North America.

It’s another chance at an audition, perhaps to attract a more permanent, high-level hockey solution.

The Colisee has no chance to among the AHL leaders in attendance. In fact, only two teams in the league in 2012-13 averaged lower attendance numbers than the Colisee’s maximum capacity.

But in the ECHL, which now has two teams in the Northeastern corridor, the Colisee’s capacity would place it above the average attendance for six of the league’s teams in 2012-13. And all of those teams are affiliated with NHL clubs, much like the Portland Sea Dogs are affiliated with the Boston Red Sox at the AA level.

With the right affiliation — either with a popular local team or even with the same team with which the AHL franchise in Portland is affiliated — a team of that caliber could thrive here.

But first, people here, in the greater Lewiston/Auburn hockey community (and I generously tab the Midcoast and the Augusta area in that demographic), must prove their ability to once again embrace what is apparently becoming a reality: A full season of professional hockey is looming in the Twin Cities.

No hyperbole necessary.


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