The saga of the Lewiston Maineiacs is finally over, and with that so are the Maineiacs days in Lewiston.
The Maineiacs are no more after the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Board of Governors voted Tuesday to purchase the Maineiacs from majority owner Mark Just and fellow minority owners Wendell Young and Paul Spellman and promptly dissolve the franchise, which means the QMJHL will operate with 17 teams for the upcoming season.
Although, the league didn’t disclose a purchase price, it’s been reported to an estimated 3.5 million dollars.
“Following a vote from League Members, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is purchasing the Lewiston Maineiacs franchise,” Commissioner Gilles Courteau said in a press release. “Therefore, the franchise will be dissolved and the players submitted to a special draft which will in most likelihood be held on Friday. I am disappointed for the fans in Lewiston. The Maineiacs enjoyed some very good moments, including a President Cup championship in 2007. I know that Mark Just and his ownership group did all that they could to save the franchise, but the situation was no longer viable.”
The league will issue a press release in the next few days describing the process that will take place in regard to a dispersal draft, which will take place on Friday prior to Saturday’s league draft in Victoriaville, QC.
Courteau also announced that following the 2011-‘12 season an expansion franchise will be awarded to an ownership group led by former NHL goaltender Jocelyn Thibeau, who will play their games at the Sherbrooke (QC) Sports Palace, starting in the 2012-’13 season.
“The QMJHL is very excited to welcome Sherbrooke back into its fold,” said the Commissioner. “With strong local ownership, I am convinced that major junior hockey will once again flourish in Sherbrooke.
Sherbrooke City Council is scheduled to hold a special meeting Wednesday afternoon where they will outline to the public proposed upgrades to the Sherbrooke Sports Palace as part of the retu
rn to the QMJHL.
Commissioner Courteau is expected to be in Sherbrooke tomorrow for a press conference.
Ironically, it was the Maineiacs who left Sherbrooke, relocating to Lewiston for the 2003-’04 season.
It was a struggle at the gate for the Maineiacs averaging just over 2,300 during their eight seasons in Lewiston. As a result, the Maineiacs were never on financially solid footing, posting losses every season they were in Lewiston, losing roughly $4 million dollars.
Attendance took a really big hit following the Maineiacs attempted move to Boisbriand, Quebec, a suburb northwest of Montreal, in January 2009. The Montreal Junior would eventually block the move, evoking their right to veto because it infringed on their territory, which sent the Maineiacs scurrying for a home before coming back to Lewiston to the ’09-’10 season.
The attempted move not only failed, but it cost former team president Matt McKnight his job as well as the fans trust, and it showed, averaging 1,853 in attendance for the ’09-’10 season. His replacement Don MacAdam, who took over as team president was also relieved of his duties after the financial struggles continued.
“I am truly sad for Maineiacs fans,” Just said. “For those that supported the team over the past few years, I would like to thank you. Nonetheless, mounting financial losses became too much to bear for our ownership group.”
In the summer of 2010, Just hired Moncton Wildcats President Bill Schurman to take over the franchise with the hopes of reviving it and get it back on solid financial footing. However, that was short-lived as by late December rumors began to surface that Schurman was working on plans to relocate to his native Summerside, Prince Edward Island.
The rumors of any relocation were denied, up until last Sunday when the team issued a release saying they were looking at all options including selling, relocation or folding.
“I have been trying to do everything that I possibly can to keep the team intact,” said Just.