In this 2018 photo Beacon, the puffin mascot for the Maine Mariners of the ECHL, shows off prior to a game at Portland's Cross Insurance Arena. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Mariners

The Maine Mariners have become the latest Portland-based minor-league sports franchise affiliated with one of Boston’s major-league teams.

Officials of the ECHL hockey club, which plays its home games at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, announced the agreement with the NHL’s Boston Bruins during a press conference Wednesday morning.

The Mariners join the Portland Sea Dogs and Maine Celtics — formerly the Maine Red Claws — in having formal working relationships with nearby Boston teams. The Sea Dogs are the Double A baseball affiliate of the Boston Red Sox while the Maine Celtics are the NBA G League basketball affiliate of the Boston Celtics.

The Mariners had been affiliated with the New York Rangers since joining the now ECHL in 2018, but on Tuesday afternoon the Jacksonville (Florida) Icemen announced it was shifting its ECHL affiliation to the Rangers from the Winnipeg Jets.

The Atlanta Gladiators, based in Duluth, Georgia, has been the Bruins’ ECHL affiliate since 2015, though league play was stopped in March 2020 due to COVID-19. The Gladiators and the Mariners were among numerous ECHL teams that opted out of the 2020-21 season because of the continuing pandemic.

The Mariners are set to resume play this fall, with their 2021-22 season scheduled to start Oct. 22 at home against North Division rival Worcester (Massachusetts) Railers, an affiliate of the NHL’s New York Islanders.

“We are extremely excited to be affiliated with the Bruins organization and we’re proud to solidify the Boston-Portland connection with all three of Maine’s professional sports franchises,” Mariners president Danny Briere said. “We can’t wait to bring live hockey action back to Portland this fall, and we know that Mariners fans will be thrilled to watch players from the Bruins organization playing right here in Maine.”

The Mariners also will be affiliated with the Bruins’ top minor-league club, the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. Ironically, the original Maine Mariners were the Bruins’ AHL affiliate from 1987 to 1992, when the franchise moved to Providence.

“The Boston Bruins are excited to establish an affiliation agreement with the Maine Mariners of the ECHL,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “The Bruins and Maine Mariners have a long player development history, as well as having a passionate fan base in Portland and throughout the state of Maine. We are looking forward to building a strong working relationship with Comcast Spectacor, Daniel Briere, and the coaching staff of the Mariners.”

 

The Bruins have had an ECHL affiliate since 1991, partnering with the Johnstown Chiefs (1991-93, 2007-08), Charlotte Checkers (1993-94, 1995-98), Greenville Grrrowl (2001-02), Reading Royals (2009-12), South Carolina Stingrays (2012-15) and most recently the Gwinnett/Atlanta Gladiators (2015-20).

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...