The world of hockey is one filled with fierce rivalries, intense competition, and loyal fan bases. And in North America, there is no shortage of teams that have a storied history and a long-standing rivalry with their opponents. One such team is the Maine Nordiques, a minor league hockey team based in Lewiston, Maine. The team has a rich history, dating back to the 1970s, and has had some memorable matchups throughout the years. In this article, we will take a closer look at the most important matchups in the history of the Maine Nordiques, from their early days in the WHA to their recent successes in the ECHL. So, let’s lace up our skates and take a trip down memory lane to revisit some of the most iconic rivalries in Maine Nordiques’ history.
The Early Years: The WHA days
The Maine Nordiques were founded in 1972 as a member of the World Hockey Association (WHA), a rival league to the NHL. The team quickly gained a following in Lewiston, with fans flocking to the newly built Central Maine Youth Center to support their local team. But it wasn’t until the 1977-78 season that the Nordiques truly made their mark in the WHA. Led by future NHL Hall of Famer Mike Bossy, the Nordiques finished as runner-ups in the league, losing to the Winnipeg Jets in the finals. It was during this season that the Nordiques developed one of their most heated rivalries with their northern neighbors, the Quebec Nordiques.
The Nordiques vs. Nordiques Rivalry
The rivalry between Maine and Quebec was a classic tale of two cities, each with a team named the Nordiques. But make no mistake, these were two very different teams. While the Quebec Nordiques were a powerhouse in the WHA, the Maine Nordiques were still finding their footing in the league. This led to some intense battles on the ice between the two teams, with both sides fighting for bragging rights and the title of Nordiques. And the fans got in on the action too, with chants and signs proudly displaying their allegiance to their respective teams. The rivalry between the Nordiques and the Nordiques was always one to watch, and games between the two teams were always packed with drama and excitement.
The Battle for Canadian Supremacy
As the WHA merged with the NHL in 1979, the Maine Nordiques made the jump to the new league and faced off against their Canadian counterparts for the first time. This paved the way for another historic rivalry, this time with the Edmonton Oilers. Led by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, the Oilers were the team to beat in the NHL, and the Nordiques were determined to take them down. But it wasn’t just a competition between teams, it was a battle for national pride as well. The Nordiques, representing an American city, were seen as the underdogs against their Canadian rivals. And this only added fuel to the fire as these two teams fought it out on the ice, both vying for the title of the top team in North America.
As the 1980s rolled around, the Maine Nordiques continued to establish themselves as a top team in the NHL. And with success came more rivalries, including showdowns with teams like the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens. But perhaps the Nordiques’ biggest rivalry during this time was with the Philadelphia Flyers. The two teams had faced off in the playoffs multiple times, with the Flyers coming out on top in most cases. But in 1986, the Nordiques finally had their revenge, defeating the Flyers in a thrilling seven-game series to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Although they ultimately fell to the Canadiens in the finals, this victory over the Flyers was a huge moment for the Nordiques and their fans.
Recent Rivalries: From the AHL to the ECHL
In the late 1990s, the Nordiques moved down to the American Hockey League (AHL), where they continued to build on their legacy and develop new rivalries. One of the most notable opponents during this time was the Hartford Wolf Pack, who the Nordiques faced off against in the playoffs in both 1997 and 1998. These matchups were intense and saw both teams pushing each other to the limit, making for some unforgettable games.
In 2005, the Maine Nordiques were reborn as the Lewiston Maineiacs, playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The team had a successful run in the QMJHL, which eventually led them to join the ECHL in 2018. And with this move, a new chapter of rivalries began for the Nordiques.
Today’s Rivalries and the Future
In the ECHL, the Maine Nordiques have already built up some intense rivalries with teams like the Newfoundland Growlers and the Adirondack Thunder. But perhaps the most significant rivalry for the Maine Nordiques today is with the Maine Mariners, based just a few miles away in Portland. Both teams play in the same state, and fans on either side are fiercely loyal to their respective teams. And with multiple games between the two teams throughout the season, the rivalry between the Nordiques and the Mariners is only set to grow.
Looking towards the future, the Maine Nordiques are now a part of the new North American Hockey League, bringing back memories of the team’s early days in the WHA. And as the team continues to establish itself in this new league, it’s only a matter of time before new rivalries are formed and memorable matchups are created.
The main takeaway
The Maine Nordiques have had a long and storied history, filled with memorable matchups and intense rivalries. From their days in the WHA to their current position in the HL, the Nordiques have always been a team to watch and a team that fans can be proud of. And as the team continues to thrive and grow, we can only look forward to more exciting matchups and new rivalries in the years to come. So, let’s keep our eyes on this dedicated team as they continue to make their mark in the world of hockey.