Professional hockey returns to Portland in 2018

Cross Insurance Arena in Portland (Sun Journal File)

PORTLAND (WGME) – Professional hockey is returning to Portland, with the Alaska Aces expected to relocate in time for the 2018-2019 East Coast Hockey League season.

The new hockey team will play a 36-game regular season at the Cross Insurance Arena, giving the facility an anchor tenant. It's an important move financially and economically.

The announcement comes a little more than a year after the Pirates left Portland for Springfield, Mass.

The arena's board of trustees say Comcast Spectacor has purchased the Alaska Aces and will relocate the team to Maine by Fall of 2018, as part of a 15 year agreement.

"At the moment, they're not affiliated with an NHL (team)" said Chairman, Michell Burkowitz. "It's anticipated that they will become affiliated with an NHL team in the future."

It means a brighter future for the arena as well, which officials said was projected to lose half a million dollars in advertising revenues without an anchor tenant. Mayor Ethan Strimling hopes the deal will be good for taxpayers.

"It costs us over $650,000 a year to support this building and we would love to bring that annual cost down a little bit," said Strimling.

Many hope business will boom with spectators heading to the downtown area.

"There's a real economic impact for the business," said Daniel Steele, who owns Brian Boru.

Brian Boru sits just yards from the venue. Money aside, Steele said, this is about something much bigger.

"Just generally fill out the feeling of the Portland community," he said. "We need a sports team, I think, especially a hockey team."

The team has yet to be named. An official celebration and ribbon cutting will be held later this summer.

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