Just as the NHL has a team in a non-traditional market poised to move, something could happen very soon with the money-losing Lewiston Maineiacs in the QMJHL.
With the league's draft fast approaching this weekend, the Maineiacs situation has come to head with majority owner Mark Just released a statement saying, basically, he is not prepared to lose money for another season with the league's lone U.S.-based team. The league has scheduled a conference call for Tuesday to discuss the disposition of the troubled team. Some general managers across the QMJHL are sufficiently concerned to think they might have to scramble to get ready for a dispersal draft, while there were reports in the Quebec media the team would be put under league control and relocated, not unlike Major League Baseball ultimately did with the Montreal Expos in 2004. Here's the gist of Just's statement:
"The organization has reached the point where it cannot continue to operate under the fiscal conditions as they exist today.
"I have been trying to do everything that I possibly can to keep the team intact," stated Mr. Just. "All and every option is on the table, including selling to local investors or others, looking at relocation options, and / or seeking additional sources of funding within the State of Maine."
"As the only United States based team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the organization incurs a higher level of expenditures for immigration, healthcare, and travel." mentioned Just. "As a result, the team is working toward finding solutions to reduce these costs and become profitable. We cannot continue to lose money as the team has in the past eight seasons." (QMJHL)
There is one report of a Maine-based buyer. From Justin Pelletier:
One possible solution manifested itself Sunday, as Portland Pirates' owner Brian Petrovek informed minority owner Paul Spellman of his potential interest.
“Brian has expressed interest to me in an ownership position under certain circumstances," Spellman said Sunday. "However, he has not been fully engaged in those conversations until very recently, so he needs time. He wants the Maineiacs to be successful and viable and will be disappointed if the team leaves Lewiston." (Lewiston Sun Journal)
It says here the league can ill-afford to have a franchise go under, not just for the sake of logistics but for stability. It looks bad if a team folds, plus a 17-team league is harder to schedule. We will know more Tuesday, but it would seem like QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau, et al., will have to come up some solution very quickly.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.