Portland’s new ECHL team will have a familiar name: Maine Mariners

Author: Glenn Jordan, Pressherald.com
Date: Oct 2, 2017

What was old is new again.

Portland’s newest professional hockey franchise will be known as the Maine Mariners, the same name given the American Hockey League franchise based in downtown Portland from 1977 to 1992. The team made the announcement Friday afternoon at the Boys & Girls Club of Portland.

The Mariners will begin play in the ECHL – considered one step below the AHL in hockey’s minor leagues – in October 2018 at Cross Insurance Arena. Mariners was chosen over four other finalists from a contest that received more than 18,000 votes.

“We’re just going to re-light the fire, so to speak, and march on with what we think is a cool and iconic name,” said Paul Holmgren, president of the Philadelphia Flyers and Maine Mariners. “We’re looking forward to restarting what once was, and more good hockey to come.”

Adam Goldberg, vice president of business operations for the Mariners, said of the more than 18,000 votes cast, most went to Mariners, but Wild Blueberries was not far behind. Watchmen was a distant third followed by Puffins and Lumberjacks.

“Wild Blueberries was something that took us all by surprise,” Holmgren said. “We had some interesting conversations.”

Goldberg, who has background in marketing, had chosen a juicy mascot if the Wild Blueberries had been chosen: Chuck. As in, Chuck Berry.

He said the team will decide on a logo and colors by November, and they will not be the same as the original ship’s wheel with the orange circle inside the tall rounded ‘m.’

A Mariners mascot likely will take longer to develop. Goldberg said he is open to mascot suggestions and promised town hall-style meetings with fans starting this fall to address questions and concerns.

The team’s new director of sales starts work Monday. Goldberg said 150 fans already have put down $50 deposits for season tickets. Prices have yet to be determined, but Goldberg said they would be comparable or less expensive than those of the Portland Pirates, the American Hockey League franchise that relocated in 2016 to Springfield, Massachusetts. Single-game tickets cost as much as $18 during the Pirates’ final season.

Two original members of the Maine Mariners, Wayne Schaab and Frank Bathe, attended the unveiling. Schaab, 68, played six years in Portland and, like Bathe, remained in the area after his playing days ended.

“A bunch of people I know in their 30s and 40s all wanted the Mariners back,” Schaab said. “I was curious about that. They said they grew up with Mariners and they missed the old name.”

Andrew Hart, a longtime Portland Pirates fan from South Portland in line for season tickets, said he would have preferred a fresh start with a new name, but that the pressure from older fans to revive the Mariners, the ties with Comcast Spectacor to both the Flyers and the original franchise, and the fact that the team had not bothered to trademark any of the other four finalists made the outcome appear inevitable.

“Unlike those that go back to the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s when the Mariners played, I wasn’t in Maine,” Hart said. “Many people weren’t. So the name has no resonance with us. So to the extent that the organization (chooses) something that a recent and younger generation has no tie to is somewhat disappointing.”

Hart said he is happy that pro hockey is coming back to the city and is approaching the new franchise with an open mind.

“As long as they are willing to brand themselves as being unique,” he said, “instead of a carbon-copy of the Flyers or Bruins like the prior Mariner teams.”

Danny Briere, vice president of hockey operations for the Mariners, said even more important than the name and the crest is the people who will wear the jersey.

“We want to bring players and coaches that are going to be great in the community as well,” he said. “That’s something we’re going to be looking for.”

The Mariners will be the 28th franchise in the ECHL, which began as the East Coast Hockey League but expanded across the country and into Canada. Each current ECHL club is affiliated with one of the 31 National Hockey League clubs. The four NHL clubs without ECHL affiliates are Columbus, Florida, Ottawa and Tampa Bay.

Briere said hiring coaches and signing players will come later. Under ECHL rules, players operate under one-year contracts and teams are allowed to protect eight players for the next season. The rest become free agents.

The ECHL also has a salary cap and teams are required to provide housing for their players.

Both Briere and Holmgren are former Flyers players. Briere said he expected the Puffins and Blueberries “to be tossed aside and the other three strong names would make a push” in the fan voting.

“I was totally wrong,” he said. “The Blueberries took off. You had to start opening your mind to it. What can we do with it? But at the end of the day, I’m very excited about the Mariners.”

Goldberg hinted at promotions that could include a Throwback Night with the original Mariners logo on jerseys and a What If Night with players wearing Maine Wild Blueberries jerseys. In July, the Hartford Yard Goats of baseball’s Eastern League held such a promotion by becoming the Hartford Praying Mantis for one game.

“That was their second most-popular team name,” Goldberg said. “They had jerseys. They had merchandise.”

So there might be a juicy night for the Bloobs after all?

“I think we would be silly not to,” Goldberg said. “I anticipate us being very creative with our promotions. Nothing is really off limits for us.”

  Share   Tweet

Strategic Partners