The Maine Moose, returning to the International Junior Hockey League after a two-year hiatus, hired former Lewiston Maineiacs coach Jeff Guay to lead the new team.
“We will be back for the 2012-2013 season,” said Ben Gray, who co-owns the Moose with Charlie Davis. “We’re just getting everything going. We’d like to have a good core of Maine kids to support the team. The biggest challenge is just getting going again, getting back into it. But it was a good time with the new arena coming, and Jeff is exactly the kind of person we need to run the program.”
The Moose, who already feature U-18 and U-16 Midget teams, will skate in The Bank of Maine Ice Vault, a $4 million arena being built in Hallowell.
Davis said the team explored other options, but decided the IJHL was the “right fit.”
“We always pretty much thought we’d go back to the IJHL,” he said. “It’s not USA Hockey sanctioned, so we can carry a lot of foreign players if we want to. Plus, we were in IJ before and they held a spot for us. We wanted to go right back. We thought about upgrading to go to the (Eastern Junior Hockey League), but this was the right fit.”
IJHL commissioner Charlie Nielsen said the Moose already paid a deposit on the league dues, which run about $4,500 a year.
“I told them that we’d keep their spot for a couple of years,” he said. “They’re coming back. I hope it works out. We love being in Maine.”
Guay was an assistant coach in the Maineiacs’ first seven seasons in Lewiston. He also served as an interim head coach for the Maineiacs, surviving numerous head coaching changes, before the organization folded last year.
Guay, a Lewiston native who resides in Lisbon, also played professionally in the United Hockey League and Western Professional Hockey League.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge. I want to develop kids here. I know they say that high school players here are behind other states, but I think some of it is the coaching. I don’t think we have too many pro players and coaches in the area. I just want to run a top-notch program.”
Guay, who signed a one-year contract last week, acknowledged he knows little about the IJHL.
“I hope to catch a game before the season ends,” he said. “I don’t know much about the league, but right now I’m just going to try to get kids to come into the program. We’re just starting the process. I’m looking forward to getting going. It’s not going to be about wins and losses. It’s about developing for the next level. I had a good track record with the Maineiacs.”
Added Gray: “He just brings a lot to the table. He’s exactly what we’re looking for. He’s high intensity and he knows how to get kids to the next level.”
The Moose, Davis said, are also negotiating an affiliation with the Odessa Jackelopes of the North American Hockey League.
Augusta native Joe Clark is the general manager for Odessa.
“We’re working out an affiliate with them,” Davis said. “If they have players who aren’t quite ready, they can send them down and we can help develop them. They could also call up players they like.”
The IJHL season runs from August through March.
Gray said a schedule will be announced at a later date.
* U-18 team eyes national tournament: The Maine Moose U-18 team will head to Lansing, Mich., late next month to compete in the national championship tournament.
The Moose, who won the state tournament last fall, are comprised of 20 players, including Cony standouts Dakota Bowie, Dallas Clark and Galen Casey. Tyler Boudreau (Lawrence) and Chris Lee (Waterville) also play for the squad, led by Gardiner coach Jeff Ross.
“It will be a great experience for the kids,” Gray said. “They will play against some of the best players in the country in their age group.”
Gray added that the team will start practicing again once the high school and prep seasons end.
“Everybody’s seasons are winding down,” he said. “What we’ll do shortly here is get some practices and exhibitions.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640