Interest in the return of professional hockey to downtown Portland is picking up.

The Cross Insurance Arena board of trustees sent out a request for proposals last week to four parties who have expressed interest in bringing a hockey franchise to Portland, according to board chair Mitch Berkowitz.

The six-page document seeks details about potential ownership groups, previous experience with pro hockey, who might handle day-to-day operations and whether the team or ownership has an affiliation with a National Hockey League team. Proposals are due by Feb. 28.

Berkowitz said the interested parties are unrelated.

“We do expect out of the four, we’ll get at least one (worthwhile proposal),” he said Monday. “Ideally, more than one, because that puts us in a better bargaining position.”

Berkowitz declined to name any of the parties, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize their positions. He also said any team would likely begin play in 2018, although he didn’t entirely rule out the possibility of it happening this fall.

“If we can pursue that, we certainly will,” he said, “but not at the risk of (missing out on) a long-term, viable tenant.”

Last May, after the abrupt sale and relocation of the American Hockey League Portland Pirates to a group in Springfield, Massachusetts, Godfrey Wood announced plans to build a team of investors to bring an ECHL team to Cross Insurance Arena. Wood, who lives in Falmouth and serves as executive director of Habitat for Humanity, partnered with Tom Ebright to move the Pirates’ franchise from Baltimore to Portland in 1993 and served as general manager for three years.

Last week, the CIA board’s contract compliance manager, Dale Olmstead, said he would be sending a request for proposal to both Wood and Mike Scanlon, a senior vice president and former regional manager of Spectra by Comcast Spectacor.

Wood confirmed Monday that he received the request but said he did not know whether he would have a proposal by the end of the month.

He also expressed a bit of confusion because “typically, you apply to the league to get a franchise.”

Spectra is the management firm contracted to run Cross Insurance Arena. Comcast Spectacor, the parent company, also owns the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.

The Flyers were the parent club of Portland’s original pro hockey franchise, the Maine Mariners, who began play in the AHL in 1977 in the Cumberland County Civic Center, which retained that name until Cross Insurance bought the rights in 2014.

When asked about the potential for Comcast Spectacor to have an ownership stake in a franchise from the ECHL – originally formed as the East Coast Hockey League and considered one step below the AHL – Scanlon released a written statement:

“Our company traces its Portland roots back to 1977 when the Maine Mariners were an affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. At Spectra by Comcast Spectacor, we seek opportunities that grow our business and create new experiences for our clients and their customers. We have been working closely with (the Cumberland County Recreation District) to bring professional hockey back to Portland since the Pirates announced their relocation to Springfield. If and when an opportunity exists, we will take a good look at it and see if it makes sense.”

Six of the board’s nine trustees are new. An orientation session is scheduled for Wednesday morning at CIA and Berkowitz said he hopes to hold an executive session at the March 8 meeting in order to go over any responses.

Berkowitz said the board has discussed the possibility of life at CIA without professional hockey and concluded it would be viable, but that, “We are committed to having hockey. We really want to have an affiliation. We think the fans and spectators and supporters of the Cross Insurance Arena want that activity and we want to work hard to get it.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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