Maine, known for its picturesque landscapes and charming coastal towns, might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about hockey. However, the state has a rich history when it comes to the sport, with a passionate fan base and a long list of amazing moments that have shaped the game in the region. From historic upsets to unforgettable wins, Maine has been home to some truly memorable moments in hockey. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and relive some of the most iconic events in Maine hockey history.
The Beginnings of Professional Hockey in Maine
Maine’s hockey history dates back to the early 20th century when the Portland Amateur Hockey Association was founded in 1906. However, it was not until the 1970s that professional hockey truly took off in the state. In 1973, the Maine Nordiques were formed as a member of the North American Hockey League (HL) and later moved to the World Hockey Association (WHA). The Nordiques found great success in their first season, winning the Lockhart Cup as HL Champions.
The Nordiques continued to dominate in the WHA, eventually merging with the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1979. The team then became the Quebec Nordiques and moved to Quebec City, leaving behind a legacy of success in Maine and paving the way for professional hockey in the state.
The Birth of the Maine Mariners
After the Nordiques left Maine, the state was without a professional hockey team for some time. That all changed in 1983 with the arrival of the Maine Mariners in Portland. The Mariners joined the American Hockey League (AHL) and quickly became a fan favorite. Led by legendary coach Barry Trotz, the Mariners won their first Calder Cup in 1984, solidifying their place in Maine hockey history.
The Mariners continued to be a powerhouse in the AHL, winning two more Calder Cups in 1988 and 1990. They also produced some of the best players in the league, including future NHL superstars like John Slaney and Scott Pellerin.
Maine’s First NHL Team: The Portland Pirates
In 1993, a new era began in Maine hockey with the arrival of the Portland Pirates. The team was the first to bring NHL hockey to the state, as they were an affiliate of the Washington Capitals. The Pirates quickly became a force to be reckoned with in the AHL, winning their first Calder Cup in 1994, just one year after their debut.
The Pirates continued to be a dominant team in the AHL, making it to the Calder Cup finals three more times in 2006, 2008, and 2016. However, the team eventually moved to Springfield, Massachusetts in 2016. While the Pirates may no longer call Maine home, their impact on the state’s hockey history will always be remembered.
Maine’s First NHL Draft Pick
In 2001, Maine made history again when their very own Colin White was drafted in the first round of the NHL draft by the Ottawa Senators. White, a native of Hanover, Massachusetts, had played for the Portland Junior Pirates before being drafted and went on to have a successful NHL career. His selection in the first round marked a significant moment for Maine hockey and showed that the state could produce top talent.
University of Maine’s National Championship Win
While professional hockey has made its mark in Maine, the state is also home to one of the best college hockey programs in the country. The University of Maine Black Bears have a long history of success, with nine Frozen Four appearances and two national championships.
However, their most memorable moment came in 1993 when they won their first national championship. Led by coach Shawn Walsh, the Black Bears beat Lake Superior State 5-4 in overtime to claim the title. The game is still considered one of the greatest moments in college hockey history and is a source of pride for all Maine hockey fans.
Fenway Park Gets a Taste of Maine Hockey
In 2010, Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, became the center of the hockey world for one day. The Boston Bruins hosted the Philadelphia Flyers in the iconic ballpark, but it was the University of Maine’s Black Bears that stole the show. In the NCAA Frozen Fenway game, Maine beat Boston College 7-4, in front of a record-setting crowd of over 38,000 fans. The game was a testament to the love and passion for hockey in both Maine and the rest of New England.
The Future of Hockey in Maine
Today, Maine continues to be a hotbed for hockey, with several junior and minor league teams keeping the sport alive in the state. The Portland Junior Pirates, Maine Junior Black Bears, and the Maine Moose all provide opportunities for young players to develop their skills and pursue their dreams of playing hockey at a higher level.
And with the University of Maine’s Black Bears still producing top NHL talent, the future of hockey in Maine looks bright. With passionate fans and a rich hockey history, it’s safe to say that Maine will continue to hold a special place in the hearts of hockey fans for many years to come.
From the early beginnings of professional hockey with the Maine Nordiques to the 2010 Frozen Fenway game, Maine has been the home to some truly unforgettable moments in hockey history. These moments not only highlight the state’s love for the sport but also demonstrate its ability to produce top talent and thrive in the ever-growing world of hockey. With a dedicated fan base and a strong foundation, Maine will undoubtedly continue to make history in the world of hockey.