No one ever said that hockey isn’t a rough sport. But a new move by principals of the fledgling Portland Junior Pirates program has left Lewiston Area Youth Hockey League officials crying foul.
The Pirates have already squeezed the existing LAYHL program off of its home ice for next season. Now, the team is barred the Gladiators from holding tryouts later this month.
The LAYHL is a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit youth hockey league with a related travel team, the Maine Gladiators. The Portland Junior Pirates is attempting to create a for-profit youth hockey program in direct competition with LAYHL.
Officials of the Pirates, who are buying a minority stake in the Colisée, told WGME-TV that they won’t provide the Gladiators with previously reserved ice time in late March and early April of this year.
“We’ve already secured ice time at the Ingersoll Ice Arena in Auburn,” said Andy Guerin, president of the Lewiston Area Youth Hockey League and the Gladiators program. “But, frankly, we’re stunned. The Pirates say they’re trying to offer an alternative. This action makes clear that they’re trying to drive out a successful, volunteer-driven community organization and replace it with a for-profit operation.”
Last week, the Gladiators’ board, comprised of Lewiston, Auburn and mid-coast youth hockey supporters, voted to continue the program after receiving pledges of support from other local rinks and youth hockey programs.
“The support we’ve received is amazing,” said Guerin. “Maine’s youth hockey community obviously recognizes the value of our program.”
But the Pirates’ action—only weeks before scheduled tryouts—left league officials scrambling. Guerin said that LAYHL has served the region for two generations, coaching young players, providing scholarship support for families in need and emphasizing sportsmanship while developing skills.
“Based on their recent actions, sportsmanship doesn’t appear to be high on the Pirates’ agenda,” Guerin said. “I sincerely hope that the Lewiston youth hockey community will consider the Pirates’ tactics when choosing a program for their kids.”
The Gladiators program was launched in 2006 as an advanced-level travel program for youth hockey players, many of whom emerged from Lewiston Area Youth Hockey League. The Gladiators program serves more than 100 players, who range in age from 8 to 14. Players travel throughout the state for competitions. In the upcoming season, teams will also compete in Massachusetts.
The Lewiston Area Youth Hockey League, which serves approximately 500 kids each year, is also currently evaluating its options for next season, which include closer alliance with the Auburn Youth Hockey League.
Registration and player evaluations for LAYHL are scheduled for late summer or early autumn.
For more information about The Gladiators, see www.mainegladiators.com.