UPDATE: Maine Timberwolves done in Lewiston before playing a single game

LEWISTON — Once again, the hockey community in the Lewiston-Auburn area could be left wanting.

The Maine Timberwolves, one of 11 teams in the fledgling Northern States Junior Hockey League, will not open the season at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee this weekend as previously expected, and the team’s existence is in jeopardy after owner Jeff Dupere missed a deadline to make a transfer payment as part of the agreement to purchase the team. Dupere also has not paid the insurance premiums for the team’s players, another league requirement.

“We’re not willing to accept the shortfalls in those areas,” NSHL Commissioner Wayne Sheehan told the Maine Hockey Journal. “We’ve been told that those obligations are going to be paid and we’ve been trying to be flexible with those deadlines, but we are on the cusp of the season and they haven’t been met.”

The Timberwolves were set to begin their season Saturday on the road in Biddeford against the Maine Wild. Their home-opener was set for Sunday at noon at the Colisee, part of a scheduled 16-game home slate previously announced on July 16.

Instead, according to Sheehan, league officials have pulled together a new schedule that does not include the Timberwolves, and has submitted that to the executive committee for approval, pending the final outcome of the Lewiston team’s situation.

“We’ve presented two options to our teams (Wednesday),” Sheehan said. “The biggest impact will come at the three league showcases, but the remainder of the league schedule is about 95 percent intact, with a few adjustments to get everyone to a 41-game schedule for the regulate season.”

According to a search of the Better Business Bureau, Dupere was listed as an owner of East Coast Fitness, LLC. in Wolfeboro, N.H., when it received a billing/collection complaint. East Coast Fitness opened a fitness center in Wolfeboro in March of 2013. The complaint has not been answered, and the business currently has a letter grade of ‘F’ from the BBB.

Jim Cain, owner of Firland Management, owner and operator of the Colisee, said Wednesday that staff was working on contacting people who have already purchased season tickets and sponsorships to work out those details.

The team operated last season as the Maine Moose, playing out of the Bank of Maine Ice Vault in Hallowell. Then-owner Ben Gray, a St. Dominic Academy graduate and area native, sold the franchise to Dupere at the end of the season.

Former Lewiston Maineiacs coach and Lewiston native Jeff Guay coached the team last season when it was still known as the Maine Moose, but left the team immediately following the season.

Dupere reached a deal in June to bring the team, re-branded as the Maine Timberwolves, to the Colisee, which hosted the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates last season.

Dupere has not returned emails and phone calls seeking comment.

Cain said Wednesday that suspension of the team’s activities was a possibility, but had yet to hear definitively late Wednesday night. He was unavailable for comment late Wednesday.

Sheehan told the Maine Hockey Journal that he didn’t believe any of the team’s or league’s problems originated from the Colisee, or from Cain.

“This is not a reflection of what they are trying to do in that community,” Sheehan said. “It’s completely our league making a decision as a business entity that we have to make with regard to the players that signed to play in that program.”

The NSHL is an AAU-sanctioned Tier III junior league. Players in the league are primarily post-grads or players who have completed high school or prep school looking to make it into the college ranks. Many of the league’s players have gone on to play at Division III schools such as USM, UNE and Salem State (Mass.).

The Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League called the Colisee home for eights seasons, from 2003-2011. After hosting a variety of leagues and some Portland Pirates games for two seasons, the Colisee became a second home for the Pirates in 2013-14 after the AHL club and Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena (formerly the Cumberland County Civic Center) came to a stalemate over lease negotiations. Those have since been resolved and the Pirates will return to Portland this season, leaving the Colisee without a full-time, primary tenant.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.


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