Bruins

The Bruins’ ECHL team in Maine is a ‘perfect’ situation

The Maine Mariners, playing in their first game as an affiliate of the Bruins, defeated the Worcester Railers 6-3 on Friday.

The Maine Mariners played their first game as an affiliate of the Boston Bruins on Friday. Zachary Roy / Maine Mariners / Getty Images

PORTLAND, Maine — The players looked the part, Todd Angilly’s golden pipes delivered in peak form and the 4,541 hockey-starved fans arrived well before puck drop Friday night, ushering in a new era of this city’s storied minor league hockey history. 

If the black, gold, and white sweaters worn by the Maine Mariners weren’t enough to tell you Portland is a Bruins city, the thunderous ovation for the Bruins boisterous National Anthem singer, Angilly, from the Cross Insurance Arena faithful gave it away. 

“We had been waiting for them to become a Bruins affiliate,” said Danny Bullis, a season ticket holder from Westbrook who attended the game with his brother, Ryan, and donned the Bruins black and gold. “When I started watching hockey [the Bruins] were affiliated with the Mariners, so it brings back memories.” 

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The ECHL is two notches below the National Hockey League (NHL) and the level below the American Hockey League (AHL). In their first game as the ECHL affiliate of the Bruins, the Mariners topped the Worcester Railers 6-3 behind three goals from forward and University of Maine alum Eduards Tralmaks.  

“I’m a UMaine graduate and Maine is my home,” Tralmaks said. “I love this building a lot, and hopefully during the season there’s more to come.” 

The City of Portland and the Cross Insurance Arena, formerly known as the Cumberland County Civic Center, are longtime minor league hockey hosts. 

The original Maine Mariners, technically two different franchises, competed in the American Hockey League from 1977-1992. They were affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, and the Bruins. The second Mariners franchise left Portland for Providence in 1992, but the city was not without hockey long. The Portland Pirates, another AHL franchise, came in the following year. They were affiliated with the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, and Florida Panthers before departing for Springfield in 2016.

The second coming of the Maine Mariners debuted during the 2018-19 season as the ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers. They played most of two seasons before the tail end of 2019-20 was canceled abruptly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eleven of the league’s 26 teams, including the Mariners, opted out of last season entirely. Major news came this past June when the Bruins announced the Mariners as their ECHL affiliate

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After five years with the Atlanta Gladiators, the Bruins ECHL affiliate is a heck of a lot closer not just to Boston, but to the AHL affiliate in Providence, where Mariners players will often go to and come from. The new affiliation resulted in an 11% increase in season ticket package sales, according to the Portland Press Herald. 

“We’ve been here before, but when we found out they were with the Bruins it makes it that much better,” said Kelly Ciovacco of Scituate, Massachusetts, who attended the game with her family as part of a Portland weekend. “It was like taking a good thing and making it great.” 

It’s not just a new NHL affiliation for the Mariners. There’s a new coaching staff and just a handful of returning players. Players of note include three assignees from Providence, Tralmaks, forward Justin Brazeau, and goalkeeper Jeremy Brodeur, the son of 10-time NHL All-Star Martin Brodeur.  

Mariners coach Ben Guite said the crowd gave the team “wings.” Being physically Myles closer to the AHL and NHL teams is an advantage for many.

“There’s visibility for our players… in front of [Bruins] brass here,” Guite said. “There’s an advantage for our fans because guy who might not get sent down normally might get sent here for the weekend.” 

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Fans showed proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test to enter, some wore masks. Mainers are excited, as for the first time in decades, their minor league hockey team is an affiliate of the most popular NHL team in the area. 

“It’s perfect,” said season ticket holder Stan Hall, a Standish resident, and fan since the original Mariners. “I think it’s better than the New York Rangers.” 

“It’s the home team,” added his son, Matt. “They could be the future Bruins.”  

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