On Wednesday, the newest member of the ECHL revealed its colors and logo — two months after announcing its name. The Maine Mariners will wear green and blue and the logo above when they make their debut in the 2018-19 season.
Created by Portland-based Big Room Studios, the logo is gorgeous. Not only is there a plethora of subtle symbolism throughout, the colors are rather striking. And the NFL's Seahawks here in Seattle — home to another team known as the Mariners as it happens — have put that dark blue/bright green combination to good use for years.
And to be honest, those colors also remind me of the Halifax Dragons brand — in Icethetics' own fantasy hockey league, the IceHL.
The "M" stands on its own to represent both parts of the team name and, paired with the horizontal trident, spells "ME," the state abbreviation for Maine. Look closer and you'll find the butt end of the trident looks like a taped hockey stick. The right pillar of the "M" hides a lighthouse — many of which dot the state's coast. And the central prong of the trident is shaped like a pine tree.
So where did the Maine Mariners come from? They are not an ECHL expansion team.
When the AHL's Springfield Falcons moved from Massachusetts to Tucson, Arizona in 2016, it began a domino effect that left Portland, Maine without a pro hockey franchise. After 25 years in the state, the Portland Pirates left for Springfield where they became the Thunderbirds.
Then last spring, the ECHL's Alaska Aces ceased operations, creating an opportunity for the good people of Maine. That franchise was sold and moved clear across the continent where it will rejoin ECHL action in 2018-19 as the aforementioned Mariners.
If the new moniker sounds familiar, it should. This is the third iteration. In 1977, the Maine Mariners debuted as an expansion franchise and top affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. In 1983, the Flyers sold the team to the New Jersey Devils, who relocated them to Utica, New York in 1987. Today we know the franchise as the Stockton Heat, AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames.
But all was not lost for Portland in 1987 as an expansion team was awarded that same year under the same name, though now as a Boston Bruins affiliate — until the Bruins moved them to Providence, where they are today.
The minor leagues are crazy sometimes.
The Mariners haven't announced an NHL affiliation yet, but I'm sure we'll get one before next fall. All existing ECHL clubs have NHL affiliates, but with only 28 of them, that leaves four NHL teams without one — the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning.
By the way, as of next season, the Colorado Avalanche will also be without an ECHL affiliate as the Colorado Eagles graduate to the AHL. (That should free up the San Antonio Rampage to partner up with the unaffiliated St. Louis Blues.)