As has been rumored and speculated for several days now, the QMJHL officially announced tonight that the league has bought the franchise and will fold it. As the Lewiston Sun Journal reports along with many other media outlets, the sale was reportedly worth $3 - $3.5 million.
From the release:
“Following a vote from League Members, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is purchasing the Lewiston MAINEiacs franchise,” said the Commissioner. “Therefore, the franchise will be dissolved and the players submitted to a special draft. Details surrounding a special dispersal draft will be unveiled as soon as they become available.”The league will play with 17 teams next season and, per the release, a schedule is finally being worked on for the 2011-12 season. The QMJHL will return to 18 teams for the 2012-13 campaign as they will award an expansion team to Sherbrooke, Que. The ownership group is led by former NHL goaltender Jocelyn Thibault.
The Commissioner added: “I am disappointed for the fans in Lewiston. The MAINEiacs enjoyed some very good moments, including a President Cup championship in 2007. I know that Mark Just and his ownership group did all that they could to save the franchise, but the situation was no longer viable.”
“I am truly sad for MAINEiacs fans,” added majority owner Mark Just. “For those that supported the team over the past few years, I would like to thank you. Nonetheless, mounting financial losses became too much to bear for our ownership group.”
No matter what the reasons are, it doesn’t look good on any league to have teams fold like this. Even more bizarre is the fact that an expansion team will be added for 2012-13. Apparently the Sherbrooke arena is not quite ready to roll for next season which killed the idea of relocation.
The dispersal draft is expected to be held on Friday, the day prior to the entry draft. The format hasn’t been announced yet but it’s already stirring a lot of interest.
Lewiston is loaded with quality players and would have finished in the upper tier of the league next season. The likes of Etienne Brodeur, Kirill Kabanov, Michael Chaput, and Dillon Fournier will be hot commodities.
It’s going to be an interesting few days to see how this mess all works out.