The Maine Mariners are Portland, Maine’s ECHL professional Ice Hockey team. They are a recent addition to the sport having began play in the 2018-19 season. And they play their home games out of Cross Insurance Arena for the North Division of the Eastern Conference. The team replaced the AHL’s Portland Pirates after the franchise became the Springfield Thunderbirds in 2016.
The idea for the team began around May 23, 2016 when the Portland Pirates’ franchise was sold and relocated to Springfield, Massachusetts. Because of this move, an announcement was made that an ECHL team would be placed in Portland to fill the void with the goals of joining as soon as 2017. However, this effort was stalled until the end of February 2017 due to proposal submission issues.
Finally, by March 8, the arena owners narrowed their choices down. And in June 2017, groups including Comcast Spectacor purchased the franchise rights of the recently dormant Alaska Aces of the ECHL. The league approved the sale and relocation of the franchise to Portland on June 15. And the team name was chosen and announced on September 29 alongside with the reveal of the team’s logo and color scheme.
And on April 9, 2018, the Mariners announced their affiliation with the NHL’s New York Rangers. And the team finally played their first game on October 13, 2018, to a 6-3 loss against the Adirondack Thunder. Which was played at home with a reported attendance of 5,291.
However, the team was forced to suspend operations for the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But they returned stronger than ever with an April 16, 2022 game where they clinched their first-ever playoff befth after Worcester Railers lost to the Trois-Rivières Lions in OT in their afternoon game, dropping their winning percentage to .500%.
Then, in their first-ever playoff game, the Mariners fought a difficult battle against the REading Royals that they lost 3-2.
Today, the team is looking to push further along their growth and become serious playoff contenders for Cross Insurance Arena, Portland, and their fans across the country.
It’s easy to think of the Maine Mariners as a newer team, but it actually has a lot of history behind it. Going under two names before coming to Maine, the team has been a part of professional play for over 30 years. And here is the short list detailing their former names and identities.
- 1989–2003 Anchorage Aces
- 2003–2017 Alaska Aces
- 2018–present Maine Mariners
About Cross Insurance Arena
Cross Insurance Arena, once known as Cumberland County Civic Center, is a multi-purpose arena located in Portland, Maine. It was built in 1977 at an estimated cost of around $8 million and is currently the home for the ECHL’s Maine Mariners. It has permanent seating for 6,206 spectators but can be expanded up to 9,500 for music concerts.
The inside arena consists of one deck rising 24 rows, 14 seats across at its widest, and 30 separated sections around. The arena floor features 34,500 square feet of space, which makes it well suited for trade shows and conventions as well as sporting events and concerts. But one feature that makes the arena popular for local guests is how individual seats can be sponsored by anyone willing to pay for the privilege. Sponsors have their names engraved on the seats or can have them dedicated to someone they know.
The actual arena’s official name is the George I. Lewis Auditorium at Cross Insurance Arena. The press box is named for local sportscaster Frank Fixaris.
After the venue opened, its first headline act was a performance by ZZ Top during its opening on March 3, 1977. After that, the venue was scheduled to have Elvis Presley perform at the venue. And Elvis had even planned to fly down to Portland on August 16, 1977 for a show on the following day. But he was found dead at his Graceland mansion that morning. And a re-enactment of the preparations for the Portland show ended up in the bio film “This Is Elvis”.
The Venue also played host to the America East Conference men’s basketball tournament in 1980. They also played host to two AHL hockey clubs that called the arena home. And they also played host to the WWE’s Monday Night Raw is War T.V. Live Taping, famously only a few weeks after the infamous Montreal Screwjob.
Also, the arena is the alternate home ice for the Maine Black Bears men’s ice hockey team, who normally play at Alfond Arena in Orono, Maine.
Notable Hockey Moments
It might be hard to believe with a new team, but even as the Maine Mariners, the team has had several notable moments. These moments help paint the picture of a rebranded franchise that wants to earn its place in the league and within the hearts of their fans.
The following is a brief list of their most famous events.
- January 18th, 2019: Brandon Halverson made 43 saves leading to the first shutout win in franchise history. The Mariners defeated Manchester, 1-0.
- March 1st, 2019: A 4-3 shootout victory in Utah gave the Mariners ten consecutive wins in overtime or shootout games.
- March 9th, 2019: The Mariners honored the 2nd place name in the team naming contest and played a game as the Maine Wild Blueberries against The South Carolina Stingrays.
- March 17th, 2019: The Mariners and Newfoundland Growlers played an 18-round shootout at Cross Insurance arena. This was the 4th longest shootout in ECHL history that the Mariners finally won 5-4.
- June 30th, 2021: The Mariners announced a 3-year affiliation agreement with the Boston Bruins.