LEWISTON — Full-time junior hockey in Lewiston is dead for another season.

Three months after the Maine Timberwolves announced plans to play their 16-game home schedule at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee as part of the Northern States Junior Hockey League, league commissioner Wayne Sheehan confirmed Thursday that the team’s operations have been suspended.

“From a business perspective, the team has not met its financial obligations,” Sheehan said. “”We’ve tried to be flexible, but with the games about to start, we had to take action for the sake of the league.”

The biggest missing puzzle piece was the league transfer fee, a standard legal fee to cover the transfer of ownership within the league. Timberwolves owner Jeff Dupere assumed control of the team in June, purchasing the former Maine Moose from St. Dominic Academy graduate Ben Gray and relocating the team from the Bank of Maine Ice Vault in Hallowell.

“Basically, what happens is, with the transfer in ownership, there is a transfer fee, and it’s relatively small,” Sheehan said. “We’ve been chasing that since June, and we have yet to receive any of that money.”

The Timberwolves’ website, which on Wednesday listed Dupere and Nichole Grassi-Normand among team executives, was stripped of that information Thursday morning, and no contact information for either was listed. The team’s Facebook page, which had been active Wednesday, no longer existed Thursday morning. Emails sent to addresses previously listed for Dupere and Grassi-Normand were not returned.

Chantel Pettengill, who owns Pettengill Academy, an early-learning child care center in Lewiston, had become a team sponsor.

“It’s aggravating,” Pettengill said. “We’re a close community. To have someone dupe the whole community like this, it’s just aggravating. Here we are, trying to support something positive in our backyard, and we got duped.”

The Northern States Junior Hockey League now has 10 active franchises listed on its website. The league was formerly affiliated with the Amateur Athletic Union, but in recent weeks has ended that affiliation and is operating as an independent league.

“We’ve actually left the AAU,” Sheehan said. “We’re essentially an independent league right now. Without going into details, we’re on the cusp of something bigger, and we’re hopeful that, moving forward, under this new deal, that we can keep Lewiston as a market. We really do feel that Lewiston works as a hockey market in this model.”

Firland Management, which owns and operates the Colisee, is reeling from this latest setback at the Lewiston facility.

“It’s significant in terms of planned program uses of the building,” Firland President Jim Cain said. “Sixteen game days are gone. And that includes all of the other things that go with those dates: the employees who work those games, the other things coming in. It’s a significant loss for the building, and for the community.”

He added, “There aren’t exactly tenants available in the short amount of time, and we need to figure out how to deal with that. Our immediate concern is now to figure out the refund process for anyone who has put any money into tickets or sponsorships. Mike (Cain, Jim’s son and the building’s general manager) will be working to put the whole thing together so we can start dealing with that on Monday through the box office. No one is going to be short-changed as a result of buying tickets or a sponsorship. We will absolutely take care of that.”

Cain said he had not received any money from the team directly but hadn’t yet expected to under the terms of their agreement.

Cain was able shed to some light on what the NSHL’s next move might be. Among Firland’s other managed rinks are some that house North American Hockey League teams in the upper Midwest. Through those affiliations, Cain knew of a pending vote in the NAHL to swallow the Northern States Junior Hockey League and add the Northeastern league teams to an Eastern arm of the NAHL under the same USA Hockey-sanctioned junior hockey model.

That vote is expected Friday, Cain said.

“What that would do, it would enhance the value of the program overall,” he said. “That doesn’t help us at this point, but we’d certainly be open for discussions down the road. We have to get past what this situation has caused first, and that won’t be easy.”

Sheehan was adamant that the Timberwolves troubles did not reflect badly at all on Cain, or on Lewiston.

“It’s very important to note that this was strictly a league decision,” Sheehan said. “Our experience with Jim Cain and the Colisee has been nothing but positive and a class act. We want to have a team there, in the building, in that community.”

He added, “It really seems like the city has been snakebitten in recent years, but with our current footprint, two teams in Maine, two in New Hampshire, we’re hoping to have two in New Jersey and a few more in Massachusetts, we’re on the cusp of something big for junior hockey, and we want Lewiston to be a part of that.”

Players who had signed with the Timberwolves will have the opportunity to latch on with other teams in the Northern States Junior Hockey League.

“The executive board met (Wednesday), and decided that those players will be placed on other teams as space allows, and that any payments made or contracts signed to play in the league will be honored as they are,” Sheehan said. “I am hoping we can recover some of the funds, but at this point we’re not hopeful. Ultimately, we want the kids to have a good experience in the league, and get the chance to play that they deserve on any of our teams willing to accept them.”

For Firland Management, the Colisee and the Cains, the next order of business is to restructure their financial expectations. The loss of the team represents a significant, unexpected monetary loss.

“First we have to get past the lost business this fall and winter,” Cain said. “We have other events, with the Junior Pirates program among them, but losing 16 guaranteed dates before Christmas is significant, for sure.”

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