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Portland Maine Aligning Itself For ECHL Expansion

Before you stop me and say, there’s no way a Las Vegas minor league team is going to play nearly 3,000 miles away, just hear me out.

The assumption is correct, the Portland Pirates would not a perfect ECHL destination for Las Vegas, but Portland does offer an enviable location for the NHL’s second minor league to expand. The city has an arena, has an owner and general manager, had a team for 23 seasons up until their team moved at the conclusion of last season, and they want back in.

Portland lost their team, an AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers, when they were moved to Springfield, Massachusetts and eventually sold and moved to Tucson to become an affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes. Now, with the NHL’s expansion to Las Vegas, the ECHL may be looking for a new franchise, and quick. We’ve talked about Reno, Southern Utah, Southern California as possibilities, but none of these places would be ready to go in 2017-18.

The Portland Pirates can. There are however two teams in the ECHL currently without an affiliate at the moment that may complicate the situation. Those two are the Colorado Eagles in Loveland, CO and the brand new Worcester Railers in Worcester, MA (set to begin play in 17-18). Colorado would love to align with the Avalanche and the Railers would like to pair up with someone in the northeast. Assuming Colorado joins up with the Avs, that would leave the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Comets without a pro club.

Las Vegas needs at least an AHL team and almost certainly an ECHL team come the end of June after the Expansion Draft and the Entry Draft. Based on the timeline we have in front of us, it pretty much has to be a current franchise in the league. In the early days of the Vegas franchise they’ll probably want to be shuffling players between the ECHL, AHL, and the NHL frequently. The problem is the locations just don’t exist at this point.

Who knows how this will all shake out, but I have a feeling when the puck drops in October 2017, the situation will not be ideal for Las Vegas. Whether it’s Portland, Maine, Loveland, Colorado, Fort Wayne, Indiana, or Worcester, Massachusetts the location won’t be great, but all four are better than nothing. This being said, shuffling of minor league affiliates is very common, so don’t freak out if the first ECHL affiliate is 3000 miles away, cause it actually kind of makes sense.


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  1. Josh

    Fort Wayne is in Indiana btw, Fort Worth is Texas. The Komets play in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

  2. Stephen (@me_so_hungy)

    If they were to choose Salt Lake City, they could easily use Vivint Smart Home Arena where the Jazz play

    • Robert Slovensky

      The Grizzlies already play at Maverik Center which holds a max capacity of 11,500 for hockey. That’s more than most AHL teams have now. Also the Grizzlies were in the AHL until the Coyotes screwed them over. Utah would be perfect since the city of West Valley owns 49% of the franchise (anchor purpose), so Vegas would only have to worry about 51% ownership. Pretty cheap deal for an AHL team.

  3. chris henderson

    I would love to see and ECHL team here in Portland Maine. I think we are in ECHL town AHL town we can’t draw more than 3 to 4000 again. If they would drop the ticket prices to back with that used to be they would fill the seats faster and have more sellouts.

  4. Frank Powers

    The Philadelphia Flyers are returning to Portland with thier ECHL Team. The Flyers will be coming in 2018.

    • George Nanos

      The Return of the Philadelphia Flyers to Portland Maine would Best scenario for long time fans who remain and remember the glorious years of the MAINE MARINERS with Philadelphia Flyers as our parent club.the Flyers are great organiziation and I am sure they would assemble a fine team off and on the ice!!! Please come Flyers and bring PORTLAND back to hockey Greatness!

  5. Alexa

    You’re right, Ken. We here in Maine would welcome an affiliation with your hockey club. We need a team back now! I miss my Portland Pirates hockey. Viva Las Vegas!

  6. Frank Powers


  7. Gary Thompson

    I don’t like the Original 6 or First expansion mid 60s having their ECHL affiliates in the south. Plus Florida teams having agreements up north. No fun on that can’t build rivalries as AHL does with both nearby AAA cities and closeby teams that you’d play. Example Adirondack not playing Greenville of the Rangers. Others work out Pitt-Whee Chi-Ind Det-Tol. Western NHL work better with mountain and central locations

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