Jun 06

Calder Cup Final Matchup Set; Other Summer Pirates Notes

Portland Pirates

The 2013 Calder Cup Final matchup is set and it pits two first-time finalists against each other.  The series will open up this Saturday night at the Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, New York, as the Syracuse Crunch will take on the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The Crunch are 11-1 so far in the playoffs.  The dropped their first game of the 2013 playoffs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but won the next four games to advance.  Grand Rapids needed all seven games to finally oust the Oklahoma City Barons.  Grand Rapids fell behind 4-3 early in the third period at home in last night’s Game 7, but goals by Jan Mursak at 6:32 and Tomas Jurko at 13:48 gave the Griffins the victory, handing Oklahoma City its second straight defeat in the Western Conference Final.

We’ll post a more in-depth preview of the Calder Cup Final tomorrow.

Here’s some other news and notes:

Coyotes Sign Malindy to Entry Level Contract

Last week, Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney announced that the club had signed defenseman James Malindy to a three-year Entry Level Contract.

Malindy, a 6-foot-3, 186 pound defenseman from St. John’s, Newfoundland, was a third round choice by the Coyotes in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.  He played in two games for Portland this past season while on an Amateur Tryout Contract.  Malindy played three seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Moncton Wildcats.  He is expected to be a full-time member of the Pirates next season.

Renovations at CCCC Well Underway

The $33 million voter-approved renovation project of the Pirates home arena, the Cumberland County Civic Center, has finally begun.  Part of Center Street has been blocked off to make way for heavy equipment to begin the project, approved by Cumberland County voters during a November, 2011 referendum.

Seats are now being removed and replaced inside the building.  The facades of the new luxury boxes in the corners of the building are now in place.  The project will also include new offices, a new ticket office, new concourses,  suites, as well as revamped restrooms and concession areas.

The locker rooms are also being updated.  The Pirates will have new coaching offices, and newly updated areas for the athletic training and equipment staffs.

The renovation will take another six months to complete.  To accommodate for the renovations in their home building, the Pirates will play 12 home games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston during the first three months of the regular season.  Portland played six games in Lewiston last season, posting a 5-1 record.  The Pirates will spend the majority of the first half of the 2013-14 season on the road.  They’ll play their first of 26 home games in Portland in mid-January, 2014.  The full AHL schedule will be released in early August.

Edwards to be Instructor at Champions Hockey Academy in Gorham

Portland Pirates Head Coach Ray Edwards will be one of the instructors at the Champions Hockey Academy later this month.  The camp, founded by Pirates Equipment Manager John Krouse and Norfolk Admirals Assistant Coach Marty Wilford, will take place at the University of Southern Maine Ice Arena in Gorham from June 24-28.

The camp has sessions for players between the ages of 4 and 18.  The camp includes a component for beginners (ages 4-7), a development camp (ages 7-10), a skills enhancement clinic (ages 11-13), strength and conditioning training (ages 13-18), plus activities specifically for goalies.

Space is still available in all age groups.  More information can be found at www.championshockeyacademy.com.

Three Former Pirates Still in Hunt for Stanley Cup

One of three former Portland Pirates players may win their third Stanley Cup later this spring.  Sean Thornton of the Boston Bruins, Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Dustin Penner of the Los Angeles Kings remain alive.

All three players played for the Pirates while they were affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks.  Thornton played 14 games for Portland during the 2006-07 season, scoring four times with four assists for eight points.  Kunitz played in five games during the 2005-06 season, registering four assists.  Penner spent 57 games of the 2005-06 season in Portland, putting up gaudy numbers (39-45-84).  All three players won their first cup with Anaheim in 2007.  Kunitz won his second with the Penguins in 2009.  Thornton was a member of the Bruins 2011 championship team.  Penner won his second championship ring with the Kings last season.

AHL Live to Stream All Calder Cup Final Games Free of Charge

The American Hockey League announced today that they will offer video of all of the Calder Cup Final games on AHL Live for free.  League officials say it is a thank you to the AHL’s loyal and dedicated fans for their support.  To view the free video webcast, fans must enter the promo code “CALDER2013” in order to take advantage of the offer.  AHL Live is usually a pay-per-view service.

Vancouver AHL Franchise Move to Utica Nearly Complete

A source has told portlandpiratesradio.com that the Vancouver Canucks are expected to finalize a multi-year agreement to relocate the AHL franchise formally known as the Peoria Rivermen to Utica, New York by early next week.

The source says, if the deal is completed, the new team would play in the Utica Memorial Auditorium, a 3,800-seat facility built in 1960.  Utica has not hosted an AHL team since the Utica Devils called the city home from 1987 to 1993.  The Utica College Pioneers hockey team (NCAA DIII) is currently the major sports tenant in the building.

According to an article in the Utica Observer-Dispatch earlier this week, the New York State Assembly has approved $2.25 million in funding to complete needed renovations to bring the building up to standards for professional hockey.

The Canucks purchased the Peoria Rivermen from the St. Louis Blues in April.  Published reports in Vancouver stated that the club had planned to relocate the team to Abbotsford, BC, a market currently occupied by the Abbotsford Heat, the AHL team owned by the NHL’s Calgary Flames.  The Heat currently have six years remaining on a lease to play at the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Center.  A report in The Province indicates the Flames chose to remain in Abbotsford, located about 40 miles east of Vancouver, when they failed to reach a lease buyout agreement with the Canucks.

Published reports have said the Canucks considered operating their AHL team out of their home building, Rogers Arena, but backed down when the Heat threatened to block that move on territorial grounds.  AHL bylaws call for all established AHL franchises to have a protected area within 50 miles that no other club can move into unless the established franchise accepts the move.  Canucks brass reportedly also considered Lowell, Massachusetts and Baltimore, Maryland, both also former AHL markets, as potential homes.

Utica is within the 50-mile protected zone of the Syracuse Crunch, but Crunch owner Howard Dolgan has said he would welcome a relocated AHL team in the Mohawk Valley.

Multiple published reports in Vancouver state the Canucks have until next Wednesday to apply to the AHL for relocation of the Peoria franchise.  If they fail to do so, the club will be declared dormant for next season and will have to pay a $150,000 fine.  Vancouver would then have to reassign all of their prospects to the other 29 AHL franchises for next season.

A new Peoria Rivermen franchise will take the ice next season in the Southern Professional Hockey League, which is quickly becoming the preeminent single-A professional league in North America.

If the move is finalized, the new Utica franchise is expected to play in the AHL’s Western Conference in a division with Abbotsford, Hamilton, Rochester, and Toronto.  The league’s Board of Governors would have to approve the relocation and the divisional alignment for next season.

Coyotes Ownership Still in Flux

There’s no real progress to report in the Portland Pirates NHL affiliate’s search for a permanent owner.  Earlier this week, Anthony LeBlanc, one of the members of Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, met with city officials from Glendale, Arizona in hopes of hammering out a deal to run Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes home rink.

There were no official statements from either side after the meeting.  The NHL has owned and operated the Coyotes since 2009, when former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankrupcy.  There have since been numerous attempts to sell the team locally, but all so far have failed.

The team currently does not have an agreement to play at Jobing.com Arena next season.  The building has been operated by the NHL for a total of $50 million dollars in city funds since the league rescued the team from bankrupcy.  The city is currently reviewing bids from four arena management companies to take over the day-to-day operation of the city-owned building and has allocated $6 million for the arena management fee in the 2013-14 fiscal year, which begins July 1.  The city council is scheduled to hold a final public hearing on the city budget on June 14, and it is scheduled for final adoption on June 28.  The arena management deal is expected to be finalized on the same schedule.

Reports indicate the Renaissance group is lobbying city officials to give the arena management contract to them and increase the budgeted fee.  The city’s general fund, however, is strapped to the point where municipal police officers and firefighters are going to be laid off at the end of the month.  But, there appears to be cautious optomism that both sides may be able to hammer something out to at least keep the team in place for the 2013-14 season.

The Pirates became the Coyotes top affiliate in 2011 and have three years remaining on the current player development contract.