The Portland Pirates will move forward with a new majority owner, and he’s already extending an olive branch to the Cumberland County Civic Center with the hope of returning the team to Portland.

Ron Cain, a minority shareholder with the Pirates since 2010, is now the club’s majority shareholder.

“The opportunity presented itself for me to expand my role in the ownership in the Pirates, which I took,” Cain said. “It’s in line with some other interests that I have.”

In addition to his role with the Maine Hockey Group and with the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Cain is chairman and CEO of Legacy Holding, a logistics company based in Portsmouth, N.H. Cain is also chairman of Legacy Global Sports, an agency that represents players and arranges tournaments, sports tours and travel. Global Sports owns and operates the Selects Sports program, which organizes high-level junior hockey tournaments across the country.

“It was also my desire to make a difference here in what’s going on with the negotiations, bring a different voice, a different viewpoint and, hopefully, a different outcome than what we have going on right now,” Cain said.

Former majority owner Lyman Bullard will retain a minority share in the team, and will remain the team’s chairman and governor. Brian Petrovek, the Pirates’ CEO, will remain in that capacity.

Advertisement

“It’s all very exciting, and part of a process we’ve been undertaking ever since we had initial conversations with Ron three years ago now,” Petrovek said. “Lyman and I are excited, and it’s exciting to have his commitment and his investment and his passion rise to the level where he’s finally been able to achieve more then 50 percent ownership in the team. It’s something we’ve been thinking about and talking about, and we’re thrilled to be at this point.”

Cain said he hopes a fresh face and a new approach might make a difference in the current impasse between the team and the Civic Center’s board of trustees. After a late-summer dispute over the team’s lease agreement with the building operators, the Pirates announced they would play the entire 2013-14 season at the Colisee in Lewiston, about 35 miles north of Portland.

“We haven’t gotten that far into it yet, but I certainly will be taking more of a lead role in some of the business relationships in Portland, as well as in the negotiations with the rink,” Cain said. “Brian has been in that role for a number of years, and by me taking the majority ownership over, I’ll be bringing in certain processes we use in our other businesses, changing a bit how we operate. That’s my desire, and I think that will benefit everybody involved.”

Petrovek said he wasn’t surprised to see Cain step into a more vocal role.

“When someone moves into a position where they’re financially committed at the level Ron’s at, you certainly take on more of a role,” Petrovek said. “He’s always been involved, and we’ve always been communicating, no matter what it is that we’re doing. It’s just an affirmation and a confirmation of a position he’s now put himself in with the purchase of some additional shares, and away we go.”

Cain holds a majority stake in the Colisee, as well as the MHG Ice Centre in Saco, where the Pirates practice and train.

Advertisement

Negotiations with the Civic Center went from “barely alive” to “dead” just as the American Hockey League season began, when the Pirates filed a lawsuit against the Civic Center’s operators for breach of contract. The trustees asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, but just last week the judge assigned to the case denied that appeal.

The AHL typically likes to know of any team movements and/or affiliation changes as soon as possible, to help plan for the following season. Rumors of a Jan. 1 deadline for Portland’s situation to be resolved have emerged, but are unconfirmed. Cain did, however, acknowledge the team is working on its own timeline.

“I don’t know that any deadlines change,” Cain said. “You really have to do certain things in your market, start selling tickets and sponsorships and all those types of things. I’ve done enough negotiations with businesses in my life to know that it doesn’t do you any good to draw a line in the sand.”

He added, “At some point you have to get back and talk and try to reach an outcome. We may not be fully happy with it, and the Civic Center may not be fully happy with it, but it’s a deal that we can have a stable business and it’s a deal that they can have a solid tenant. I have not been that involved in the negotiations in the past, and I’m hoping a different approach to it is going to help.”

Cain said there is no question he intends to try to keep the team in Portland.

“We’ve made no bones about it,” he said. “The team should be in Portland, that’s the best location for it.”

Advertisement

Chairman of the Civic Center’s board of trustees, Neal Pratt, was only aware of the ownership shift in passing Tuesday. Citing ongoing litigation between the parties, he declined comment.

Cain said the team’s relationship with its NHL parent club, the Phoenix Coyotes, is a top priority, especially given the challenges the teams faced this season.

“Phoenix has been pretty supportive,” Cain said. “They haven’t been happy with it, but they understand what’s going on and they’re hoping we can make some progress here in the near future. They’ve been supportive through the whole process.”

That successful bond is crucial, Cain said, to any American Hockey League franchise.

“You have to work as an extension of their business,” Cain said. “Communication has to be solid; the relationships have to be good. We have to operate somewhat on their platform, with what they want to do.”

One other option Cain has explored is building an AHL-ready facility adjacent to his current facility in Saco.

Advertisement

“It’s not off the table, but I wouldn’t really say that’s the desire,” Cain said. “With the 50 acres we have in Saco, we could approach it kind of like a ‘Patriot Place’ model like in Foxborough (Massachusetts) on a smaller scale, putting in a rink that size and having a developer come in and take care of the area around it. The city of Saco is behind that, and they’re very interested in something like that happening. But we collectively think that the best area for the team and for our fans is in Portland. Saco would only be an option if we can’t keep the team in Portland.”

As for the Colisee in Lewiston, Cain will remain a majority owner of the facility, and he still plans to place a junior hockey team at the rink.

“Our junior team, the premier team, will start playing there,” Cain said. “That always was, and still is, the plan. We’re very grateful for the Colisee and for the fans that are there. The unfortunate part is, we’re not getting the ticket base we need to get in order to survive there. But in the overall scheme of things, it doesn’t change anything.”

After a brief business trip away from Maine, Cain said he planned to hit the ground running.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to take both sides of this getting back to the table over a cup of coffee, trying to find the middle ground,” he said. “If there is no middle ground, identifying that is important, as well. I’m hoping someone will want to do that.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.