Editor’s note: Obviously, the biggest sports story of 2020 in the Sun Journal’s coverage area was the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. For our year in review, we decided instead to count down the other top stories of the year.

The 2019-20 hockey season saw the Androscoggin Bank Colisee welcome a new tenant, the Maine Nordiques of the USA Hockey sanctioned, Tier II North American Hockey League.

By the end of the 2019-20 season, the new tenants were also the new owners of the Colisee as Nordiques owner Darryl Antonacci bought the 62-year-old building from Jim Cain and Firland Management just as the coronavirus pandemic started.

“As I started going there and seeing more of the arena and the games, there was a lot of that potential for that arena to take it to a much higher level, not just for hockey but other events. But it takes a significant amount of investment,” Antonacci said back in March. “It got to the point where I wanted to invest into the arena, but I wanted to make sure I managed it the way I want to get things done.”

Cain, who has stayed on as a consultant, felt the building is in good hands after owning the building for 12 years.

“This is a good strategic move given that Dr. Antonacci is prepared to enhance the growth development of high-level youth and junior hockey within the region,” Cain said in a new release in March. “This is a major capital commitment from Dr. Antonacci who is planning major facility improvements and program enhancements in the near future.”

Junior hockey had become a staple at the Colisee since the start of the new millennium, when the Sherbrooke Castors of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League moved to Lewiston and were renamed the Lewiston Maineiacs for the 2003-04 season. The team stayed until the 2010-11 season, when owner Mark Just sold the team to the league, which dissolved the organization.

The 2014-15 season saw the New Hampshire Fighting Spirit of the Northern States Hockey League play a handful of games at the Colisee before the organization moved to Lewiston the following season and renamed the L/A Spirit. The Spirit played two seasons before owner Rod Simmons sold the organization to Jim Cain. The team got a name change to the L/A Nordiques.

Changes were in order for the 2020-21 season as the L/A Nordiques, a member of the North American 3 Hockey League, a Tier III sanctioned junior hockey league under the USA Hockey umbrella, were dissolved a year after the team went to the Fraser Cup final.

Taking place of the L/A Nordiques was the Maine Nordiques Development Program 18U team, which moved from New Jersey to Lewiston and rebranded as the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy in partnership with St. Dominic Academy. In addition to the 18U team, a 16U team was also added.

The new teams got off to a hot start to the season and 18U goaltender Ansel “Gus” Holt committed to Army in October. Auburn’s Cam Robichaud was tabbed to coach the 16U team before being let go in October.

Also getting off to a hot start to the NAHL season was the Maine Nordiques, who are currently 11-6-0 and in first place in the East Division. They are 9-3 in home games at the Colisee.

Despite rumors of Lewiston High School leaving the Colisee under the new ownership, Lewiston High School athletic director Jason Fuller said last week that the Blue Devils are still going to play home games at the Colisee along with practicing sometimes at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn.

Antonacci wants to make the Colisee a community hub.

The concession area has new restaurant-style seating and the old Baxter Lounge on the top floor will be turned into a high-end restaurant nightclub. The bleachers that sit up against the walls at the top of the building have been taken out.

“We are trying to provide services for people who like to go to the arena, just for those services, not only for hockey. ‘Hey, the football game is over at Lewiston High School, maybe we will go to the arena, upstairs to the bar lounge, there might be a band playing,’” Antonacci said in March. “Things like that. We are trying to be creative, out-of-the-box, revamp that facility to the point where it’s a destination for the county, not just for hockey but other events, like we are trying to do esports and other things to support the arena.”

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