October 5, 2007- Lewiston, Maine
I was in the Boston area visiting family in early October. Even this early in the season there was a fair amount of hockey going on including Bruins and AHL preseason games. I decided to skip those however and take a trip to Maine for my first ever QMJHL experience. Lewiston is a smaller city about 45 minutes north of Portland and home of the only U.S. based team currently competing in the Q. The arena sits in the center of town, and has a large parking lot in front where you have to pay a few bucks to park. If you choose there are also free parking spaces on the street. The immediate first impression that this places gives is that of a newly built arena. In fact the place has been around quite a while, having been built in 1958. It said right on my ticket stub that this was the fifth season of MAINEiacs hockey, and the arena underwent renovations just prior to the team's arrival. The box office is at the same level as the parking lot, and has a nice glass exterior, and was clearly part of the renovation. The rest of the building sits up on a slight hill from the parking lot and there are stairways on either side that take you to the arena. There is also an elevator inside the box office area that leads there as well.
I was very excited for my first taste of Quebec Major Junior action, and thought the $14 ticket was a good price for the amount of fun I had. Once up the stairs to the main arena you realize this is basically a spruced up old school hockey barn. There is a concourse area with concessions on the front end of the building near the entrance. They had a wide selection of merchandise and souvenirs. I liked that the line up card was actually a poster of a current MAINEiacs player in addition to having the neccessary information such as the stats and home town of both squads. It was clearly worth the buck they charged for it. There are a couple of food and drink stands in the old concourse area, and a newer area they call a food court which sits in the addition area above the box office. This was basically just a large food counter area with several different food choices. I was dissapointed that I did not see poutine on the menu as I had hoped to supplement my first Quebec League experience with some authentic Quebec cuisine. From the front of the building there is a hallway that runs down each side underneath the stands, and also houses the teams dressing rooms. Nothing fancy here, but perfectly functional. Once inside the seating area you find seating on all four sides of the arena, and the views are quite good. The seats are blue in keeping with the MAINEiacs theme, and the railings and hallways are orange. Oddly the last couple rows of seating are actually just backless benches whereas the rest of the seats are the traditional chairs. Thankfully the rake of the seats is pretty steep, and the views are great. There is some luxury seating on the front end of the rink, and there are a couple video screens in opposing corners which showed the game throughout the night. Unlike most American rinks, but very similar to many of the arenas I have visited in Quebec, the team benches are on opposite sides of the ice. Seating capacity is listed at around 3700, just about the perfect size in my opinion.
As noted the amenities are basic, but this place really stands out in atmosphere. Perhaps it is because they are a part of the QMJHL, which offers an amazingly fast paced, yet still gritty and hard nosed game. Although attendance was not that great for this game, it was an early season game and the temperature was in the 70s outside, so it was hardly hockey weather. The MAINEiacs were coming off a bid in the Memorial Cup last year, and my understanding is that fan support for their playoff run was very good. The game presentation is pleasantly entertaining. Warmups were even entertaining for this matchup vs the St John's Fog Devils. The music selection is good, they also have a very good PA announcer who seems to have mastered the French pronunciation needed to announce a game in the Q, having seemingly said all the players names correctly, and rattling off an announcement about an upcoming bus trip to Chicoutimi without hesitation. The between period antics are typical of what you would find at a U.S. minor league game, with 2 different mascots, including one that was about 10 feet tall and had and inflatable suit called "Kollide" who was sponsored by a local bodyshop,(whoever this was did a good job of skating with a giant suit on!) in addition to the more traditional "Lewy" who also roamed the stands during stoppages. This was also the first time I had ever seen kids come out with shovels during the media time out and scoop the excess snow off the ice from in front of the benches. The game itself was intense with the MAINEiacs coming back and scoring 6 second period goals to win 7-2. After each goal the lights immediatley go black in the arena and a strobe light flashes while the goal siren sounds. This is a pretty unique goal celebration, and I thought it went well with the theme of the team. The game also had plenty of chippiness with a couple fights and scrums after almost every whistle. Overall a trip to the Colisee is a must see when in New England, where the AHL and college hockey pretty much rule the roost for hockey fans. To me the pace of the game in the Q is on par with any league below the NHL, and you can not only see top NHL prospects, and a rough and tumble game, but you can do it up close in a smaller size barn! I think they have a great thing going in Lewiston with a perfect blend of an old arena with modern updates, as well as a blend of a primarily French Canadian based league, and New England small town fan support. I think the name and logo of the team are cool, but that the best thing they did was to use the name "Colisee" for the building as the experience I had here was closer to my experience at the OHL and other Canadian games I have attended than to an AHL or college game in the U.S. Here's to Lewiston- they do a lot of things right!
**Note- The above photos were not taken on the day of my trip to Lewiston. I forgot my camera at my Mom's house. (Doh!) Thanks to response to my post requesting photos on the MAINEiacs fan forum Kellie Morris came through with these photos. Thanks Kellie.
Other information about the Lewiston MAINEiacs is available at: MAINEiacs home
Other information about the Androscoggin Bank Colisee is available at: Arena home