Players and fans stand for the singing of the National Anthem prior to the start of an NAHL junior hockey game between the New Jersey Titans and Maine Nordiques at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on February 1, 2020. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Darryl Antonacci has big plans for Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

Antonacci, who owns the Maine Nordiques of the North American Hockey League and has been a minority owner of Colisee for the past year, is set to become the building’s majority owner on April 1.

“It’s been an overriding strategy between myself and Jim Cain over the course of the year that we will continue to enhance the Colisee, in terms of bringing back the Colisee back to the community, both Lewiston-Auburn and even the county, as a destination site for events, from the high-level junior hockey league that we brought back through the Maine Nordiques to more concerts, more events, as it used to be in its heyday,” Antonacci said. “As part of that, my role was to become more and more involved throughout the year, and at this point Jim and I are ready for me to take over the vast ownership of the Colisee and continue our goal of making it a premier event center in southern Maine.”

Cain will continue to be involved in running the building as as a consultant.

Antonacci is a spine and scoliosis surgeon currently based in Princeton, New Jersey, but he said he plans to move to Auburn. He wants the Colisee to be a year-round events center. Among the events he hopes to bring in are esports and possibly an indoor sports team during the summer, when hockey is in its offseason.

There will be some changes to the hockey teams that the Nordiques organization will put on the ice for the 2020-21 season.

The Maine Nordiques will return for their second season in the NAHL, USA Hockey’s lone Tier II junior hockey league. The Nordiques’ (20-32-2) season is currently on hold due to concerns about the coronavirus. They recently concluded their regulars season home schedule, during which they compiled an 11-16-1 record at the Colisee and averaged 1,102 fans per game, ranking 10th of 26 league teams.

The L/A Nordiques of the Tier III North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) will cease operations after this season.

In place of the NA3HL team, two Tier I midget programs will call the Colisee home, the Maine Nordiques Development Program (MNDP) Prep Academy U16 and U18 teams. Both will play in the Beast Series. This year the MNDP consisted only of an 18U team that was based in Princeton, New Jersey.

Darryl Antonacci, right, is followed off the ice by Jim Cain following a ceremonial puck drop at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee prior to a Maine Nordiques game on Nov. 4, 2019. Cain just sold the Colisee to Antonacci. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Antonacci wants to showcase high-level talent at the junior and midget hockey levels.

“One thing you can say about the patrons of the Colisee, they love hockey and they really love good hockey, and it’s going to get better and better,” Antonacci said. “Bring in Tier I hockey at the U16 and U18 levels, the patrons of the Colisee are going to see players that have high-level futures in (NCAA Division I) hockey in college and (potentially pro hockey).”

On Jan. 1, the Nordiques announced a partnership with Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn for the Tier I midget players’ education.

“The enrollees of the (MNDP Prep Academy) are going to have options of education at St. Dom’s,” Antonacci said. “Not everyone at the academy will be a high school student, some will have graduated already. It’s not so much a partnership with one school, it’s providing education perhaps at more than one school as well.”

The Tier III junior hockey has been at the Colisee in one form or another since the 2014-15 season when Cain brought in the North Hampshire Fighting Spirit for a few games and the North American 3 Eastern Hockey League. The league then decided to showcase its players and teams to Lewiston, holding championship at the Colisee. Fighting Spirit owner and coach Rod Simmons moved his organization to Lewiston full-time for the 2015-16 season.

The NA3EHL merged with the NA3HL for the 2016-17 season.

Cannon Green of the Maine Nordiques is tripped up while trying to slide the puck past Johnstown goalkeeper Alex Tracy at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston in November 2019. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Simmons sold the L/A Fighting Spirit to Jim Cain after the 2016-17 season, for an undisclosed amount, and Cain renamed the Fighting Spirit to the L/A Nordiques.

The L/A Nordiques went 43-4 in the regular season during the 2018-19 season and won the Coastal Division regular season and playoff titles. They reached the Fraser Cup championship tournament along with the other division playoff champions and reached the title game before falling to the Texas Brahmas.

This year, the L/A Nordiques (33-13-1) of the Tier III North American Hockey League went 19-2-0 at the Colisee and averaged 399 fans this season. The playoffs were schedule to start today, but NA3HL’s season was canceled Friday, a day after being put on pause due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As for the Colisee other tenants, the L/A Nordiques youth teams will have 10U, 12U, 14U and 18U teams, including Tier II and Tier III teams at the 12U and 14U levels. There are also a learn-to-skate and learn-to-play programs.

Antonacci wants to maintain the community relationships the building already has in place.

“My main goal is to continue to fully engage the community, from grammar school through the community colleges,” Antonacci said. “Our goal is to work with the community and make this the community center, with community being not just Lewiston, not just Auburn, but the entire county.”

2018 Sun Journal file photo of the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The Lewiston High School boys and girls hockey teams have been longtime tenants of the Colisee.

Antonacci has already started adding upgrades to the Colisee, including the installation of video boards hanging over center ice last year and adding cameras for replays on the video boards. Antonacci hopes to add more cameras for the 2020-21 season.

Antonacci wouldn’t confirm rumors about a second sheet of ice or dorms being added to the property.

“As patrons come up to me all the time when I am there, thanking me for being involved and bringing hockey back to Colisee, my answer to them is always, ‘Well, we are trying to make it better, step by step,’’’ Antonacci said. “It’s not a quick process, nothing is off the table, but it’s a step-by-step process. Certainly, we have plenty to work on right now.”

Antonacci said housing plans for the prep academy players haven’t not yet been finalized for next season.


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