American Hockey League (1977-1992)
Born: 1977 – AHL expansion franchise
Moved: May 22, 1992 (Providence Bruins)
- 1977-1983: Philadelphia Flyers
- 1983-1987: New Jersey Devils
- 1987-1992: Boston Bruins
- 1977-1983: Philadelphia Flyers (Ed Snider)
- 1983-1987: New Jersey Devils (John McMullen)
- 1987-1991: Ed Anderson, et al.
- 1991-1992: Frank DuRoss and Ed Anderson
Calder Cup Champions: 1978, 1979 & 1984
The Maine Mariners were a popular minor league hockey club that played for 15 seasons at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center. The Mariners’ glory years came in the late 1970’s and early 80’s as the top farm club of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Maine won the American Hockey Leagues’s Calder Cup in each of their first two seasons. Future Flyers stars such as Pelle Lindbergh, Ken Linseman and Pete Peeters developed in Portland. Maine led the AHL attendance for four straight seasons from 1979 through 1982.
A special thrill of the Flyers era was the annual December exhibition game against touring Soviet teams. The contests packed in standing room only crowds and (usually) brought out the best in the Mariners. The first Cold War in December 1977 saw the two-month old Mariners shock Moscow Dynamo 1-0. In 1978, the Mariners beat up on Traktor Chelyabinsk 6-3.
On Christmas Eve 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Detente was over and, with it, the annual Soviet hockey tours of America of the 1970’s. But a Russian touring squad known as the Moscow Selects was already in the States on tour. Two days after the invasion, the Selects came to Portland. A franchise record crowd of 7,095 packed the Civic Center. For the first time, the Russians got the best of Maine, pasting the locals 7-2.
In the summer of 1983 the Philadelphia Flyers sold the Mariners to the lowly New Jersey Devils. The Mariners won their third and final Calder Cup in April 1984, capping off their first winter as a New Jersey farm club. But ultimately the sale to the Devils’ organization marked the start of the club’s decline. During the 1986-87 season, the Mariners bottomed out at a franchise-worst 3,361 fans per game. The Devils shifted the money-losing club to Utica, New York in April 1987.
Team President Ed Anderson quickly organized a group of investors to restore hockey to Portland. The AHL approved a new Maine Mariners franchise during the summer of 1987, affiliated with the nearby Boston Bruins. The Mariners retained their traditional Flyers’ colors of orange, black and white even during the Devils’ era. But with the arrival of the new franchise and the Bruins partnership in the winter of 1987, the Mariners shifted to Boston’s black, white and gold color scheme.
The Bruins era failed to recapture the on-ice glory of the Flyers years. The black-and-gold Mariners posted only one winning season (1987-88) in five years. The economic recession of the early 1990’s and Maine exorbitant workers compensation costs squeezed the club financially. The Mariners shut down their Maine operations in April 1992 and moved to Providence, Rhode Island a month later, where they play on today as the Providence Bruins.
Maine Mariners Memorabilia
Maine Mariners Video
1989 Mariners TV commercial
Goaltender Pelle Lindbergh (Mariners ’80-’82) died on November 11th, 1985 from injuries suffered the previous night while driving drunk. Lindbergh won both AHL Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Valuable Player honors with Maine in 1981. He won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s most outstanding goalkeeper of the 1984-85 season several months prior to his death. He was 26.
E.J. McGuire, the Mariners final head coach (’91-’92) died of cancer on April 7, 2011 at age 58.
“A major among the minors“, Kathy Blumenstock, Sports Illustrated, February 18, 1980