Twin City Thunder head coach Doug Friedman, center, is flanked by team owner & general manager, Ben Gray, left, and owner and director of hockey operation, Dan Hodge, right, during a press conference in March 2018 at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

There has been a change at the ownership level with the Twin City Thunder.

Ben Gray sold his 50% share to Dan Hodge, who becomes the sole owner of the organization after a three-year partnership between the two men.

Gray also owns the Maine Moose youth hockey organization, based out of Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell, as well as the owner of Merit Pools & Spas in Augusta.

Those factors led Gray to sell his share of the Thunder.

“Honestly, my family time and my other business entities that I had going on has been taking more and more of my time as those continue to grow as well,” Gray said. “I just feel I wasn’t giving the Thunder 100% what they needed from me. Dan has done a fantastic job running everything and I thought it was a good opportunity for him to take full control over.”

The pair brought junior hockey to Norway Savings Bank Arena for the start of the 2018-19 season, as the Twin City Thunder first entered the United States Premier Hockey League’s Tier III Premier League. The organization then added a USPHL Tier II National Collegiate Development Conference team for the 2019-20 season.

Hodge offered a statement to the Sun Journal about the change in ownership.

“I want to thank Ben Gray for all his hard work as my business partner over the past 3 years and for his help in getting the Thunder established,” Hodge said. “Together we were able to establish a great new organization in the USPHL, the Twin City Thunder (Premier League and NCDC teams) at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. Over the past year Ben’s time has become increasingly limited with family obligations and his other businesses. We recently came to an agreement that it was best for the Thunder was to make me 100% owner moving forward. I am very excited to build on this season’s successes and for what the future holds in Auburn. Again, I thank Ben for all that he has done for the Thunder organization.”

Hodge took full control running the NCDC team on the ice this season, with Doug Friedman stepping down as NCDC coach at the end of the 2019-20 season. Hodge became the the NCDC head coach while bringing on Caleb Labrie and Cam Robichaud as assistant coaches.

The NCDC team went 12-16-3 this season and the league couldn’t complete its 48-game schedule as teams dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks. The Thunder won a round-robin and playoff round to reach the NCDC championship weekend, losing to the New Jersey Hitmen in the semifinals.

Gray’s duties were on the back end of things on the business side.

“I was kind of the general manager, I did the financials and a lot of the day-to-day things that needs to get done,” Gray said. “There’s a lot to it, and like I said I just have been struggling to keep up this year. Dan has pulled all the weight and got (the NCDC) team to the final four this year. That’s all kudos to Dan. He has been doing a fantastic job running everything day-to-day.”

Gray, who is a Farmingdale native and now lives in Manchester, was a goalie on St. Dominic Academy’s back-to-back Class A boys hockey championship teams in 1999 and 2000. After a year of junior hockey with the Bridgewater Bandits, Gray played college hockey at Lebanon Valley College, an NCAA Division III school in Annville, Pennsylvania. He had a brief, two-year pro career from 2006-08, with stops in the United Hockey League, Southern Professional Hockey League and the ECHL.

After his playing career ended, he purchased the Moose in April of 2010. At the time, the Moose were a junior hockey team in the old International Junior Hockey League and Gray transformed it into a youth hockey program. The organization has won multiple national titles at the Tier II 14U, 16U and U18 levels. The 18U team gained Tier I status in the spring of 2020 and won the USPHL 18U title last month.

Gray will help the Thunder move to the dormitories at Stevens Commons in Hallowell for the upcoming season.

“I will be out of the picture, but I won’t be too far away because I will be helping and hands-on if they need me here and there,” Gray said. “Whatever they need, that’s the good thing, Dan knows I’m a phone call away for whatever he needs.”


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