Hockey Week in Lewiston received the perfect launch Sunday when hometown hero Kyle Lemelin made the short ride home with the Travis Roy Award in his lap.

It’s no stop-the-presses revelation that the best senior schoolboy player in Maine hails from this extended community. Easy to make the case that Taylor Landry from neighboring Edward Little was the girls’ equivalent this winter.

So much of the region’s hockey tradition is viewed in its historical context, in large part because communities to the south have made a habit of winning most of our recent high school championships.

But let’s be real, if a tad parochial, and restate with earnest conviction that Lewiston-Auburn remains the hockey hub of Maine. That title isn’t earned on a scoreboard, or by virtue of employment statistics or per-capita income data. It’s infinitely harder to win than that.

If the empire needs a Capitol building, ours is refurbished Androscoggin Bank Colisee, where the ghosts in the rafters are more pertinent to the place’s personality than any coat of fresh paint or modern amenity.

Hockey is as woven into the fabric of these cities as are the ocean and mountains an hour in either direction. Later this week, a larger segment of the puck universe gets to try us on for size.

The NCAA Division III Frozen Four will have the old rink abuzz Friday and Saturday. Small schools, big time.

A national championship will be won, which happens around here, well, almost never. D3 women’s hoop handed out its national title in Gorham a decade-and-a-half ago. Central Maine Community College twice hosted its equivalent national tourney shortly thereafter. The Senior Little League World Series has placed its flag in Bangor for a global audience.

And that’s about it. “It’s happening here” was the scoffed-at motto in this city for a while. We can argue whether or not it was true, but if collegiate national championship events are the standard, no is generally the answer.

Players, coaches and a few hundred spectators from each school presumably will make the northeast trek to be part of this potential date with greatness. That means there’s plenty of room for you and me in an arena that seats 3,677 for hockey.

Which leads me to a simple request.

Prove me right.

Show the rest of the state, the region, the country, that I’m not a dreamer and that I’m not desperately wandering through the past. Make it abundantly clear that hockey is not merely our legacy; something we dust off in the form of scrapbooks or admire with laughter as we walk past peculiar old uniforms protected in a glass case.

It’s our present. It’s our future.

Our editor got me thinking about this by posting a social media query this past week: What are the greatest sports events in the history of the building once known as Saint Dominic’s Arena and Central Maine Youth/Civic Center?

Muhammad Ali’s 1965 heavyweight title defense against Sonny Liston and the infamous “phantom punch” are No. 1, of course. One respondent added to that vote, “that’s the list,” perhaps best underscoring the importance of this discussion.

Aside from a couple of nationally televised bouts involving another world champion, Lewiston’s Joey Gamache, and the current mixed martial arts boom, every other comment cited a hockey event as the one that stuck in memory.

The problem is that most of them were dug from deep in the archive. The Maine Nordiques’ run in the 1977 North American Hockey League playoffs was more than a lifetime ago, even for a majority of men’s leaguers. Even the Lewiston Maineiacs’ 16-1 surge to the 2007 QMJHL President’s Cup might as well have been in the Mesozoic Era, in light of the franchise’s folding that soon followed.

Recent performance is what sticks in everyone’s mind, and it’s the reason for their skepticism and my concern this week. Aside from the diehards, our support for the Maineiacs and Portland Pirates often has been abysmal. High school games no longer draw more than 1,000 spectators unless Lewiston and St. Dom’s are facing off.

And yet now I hope — no, believe — that we will show up and show out for four schools without a household name and only one compelling local connection (SUNY-Geneseo’s Connor Anthoine).

The same indomitable spirit that made Lewiston natives Jean Roy and Bill Provencher finalists for the Hobey Baker Award when they played at Bowdoin will invigorate this event being hosted by the Polar Bears.

As Lewiston goes, so goes Maine hockey. We will be there this weekend. We will pack the place. And those other communities, pretenders to the throne, will follow.

Our identity demands it.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.


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