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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: November 27, 2018

Make a night of it with the Maine Mariners

Written by: Ray Routhier

Riley Bourbonnais’s second period goal Saturday night tied the hockey game between the Maine Mariners and Manchester Monarchs. But even more impressively, his scoring shot made it rain teddy bears.

It was Teddy Bear Toss night and fans were asked to bring a new or gently used stuffed animal to donate to Toys For Tots. When the Mariners scored their first goal, fans were given the OK to heave hundreds of fluffy friends onto the ice. Players had pink kitty cats and cuddly pandas glancing off their pads and falling at their skates.

The Mariners kicked off their first season in Portland in October, filling a void left when the Portland Pirates moved out of Maine two years ago. As with most minor league sports teams, family entertainment is a big focus of what the Mariners do. What kind of family entertainment can a hockey team provide, you might ask?

Some of the things Mariners’ staff do every game include playing rock music over the speakers during every break in the action. When an on-ice fight broke out at Saturday’s game – which has been known to happen at hockey games – the sound crew played “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)” by Beastie Boys. Hundreds of youngsters who weren’t born when that song came out (1986) were pumping fists and dancing at their seats.

Along with the music at games, there is a very active camera crew, working hard all game long to put images of fans up on the giant four-sided video screen hanging from the rafters. Fans were caught singing, playing with their stuffed animals, dancing and generally acting goofy.

Also Saturday, some 2,000 fans were in a good mood before they even sat down because they got free winter hats just for being among the first 2,000 to enter the Cross Insurance Arena. The hats had the Mariners colors, blue and green, with a Mariners logo (an M with a sideways trident for an E) and a pom pom on top. People waved their hats when the Mariners scored more goals and some threw them onto the ice when Ty Ronning scored his third. Three goals is a “hat trick” in hockey parlance, and throwing your hat is a sign of great respect. Or fanaticism.

Besides throwing teddy bears and hats onto the ice, fans got to throw little stress ball “tomatoes” onto the ice after the second period, in an effort to win pizza from Portland Pie and other prizes. The tomatoes, which cost $1 each and $5 for six, had to land in a certain area to win. And several times throughout the game staff tossed free Mariners T-shirts to fans.

Another between-periods contest included three young men plucked from the crowd and asked to knock a golf ball into a net with a hockey stick. Golf balls are slippery little things, on ice anyway, and don’t go as straight as they do on grass. Nonetheless, one of the young men did it and won a pass for three rounds of golf at various area courses, valued at $99.

CHEERS AND BEERS

Much of the fun at a hockey game is watching the teams fly around the ice, smash each other into the boards with a “wump” or clank a shot off the goal. At one point Saturday, about a half dozen players from both teams were careening toward the Monarchs’ net and ended up inside of it. When the refs pulled them out one by one, it looked like clowns coming out of a tiny circus car.

The action was especially fast and hectic in the third and last period. The Mariners started the period down 4-1 then came back to win, 6-4. Each time a Mariner scored a goal, the public address announcer shouted his name, all the various statistics about the time of the goal and who assisted, then ended each announcement with a rousing “woooo!” And the crowd of more than 3,500 repeated with its own rousing “woooo!”

Refreshments are what you would normally expect at a game: hot dogs, pizza, french fries, fried dough, ice cream treats, etc. There are also burgers, popcorn chicken and turkey wraps. Plus, there’s a large selection of beer, including local microbrews like Lone Pine. The hot dogs are $3.50 and bottles of soda are $4. On Fridays, there are concession specials – including $1 hot dogs, $2 popcorn and $3 Bud Light beer – available through the start of the second period.

On Saturdays, you can get a deal by buying your tickets in a family four-pack, which includes a hot dog, soda, a bag of chips and a real puck with the Mariners logo for each person.

My family and I did this last Saturday, choosing the lower-priced seats, on the end of the arena behind the goal that the Mariners shot on for two periods. We paid $72 or $18 for each ticket. If we had bought individual game tickets in advance for that end of the arena – $18 for three adults and $10 for one child – we would have paid $64. But for that extra $8, we got at least $34 worth of food, plus four very nice and usable pucks.

I was assisted in picking my seats by an online “chat” person, who was very helpful and said if we sat at least 10 rows up in the end sections we’d see everything. This was true. All the action was in front of us, we didn’t have to risk neck injury by turning quickly to as the teams breezed up and down the ice. The only minor problem was the net between the ice and the end sections, which keeps fans protected but also keeps people from tossing tomatoes or teddy bears easily onto the ice. So, for those events, people moved to center sections. Also, staff didn’t throw as many free T-shirts to the far ends of the arena.

I was very happy I asked the chat person about online fees. My family four-pack would have cost $101.90 online through Ticketmaster, with fees. The family four-pack price is only available for an advance purchase. So I bought it at the arena a couple weeks before the game and paid just the listed price, $72.

Everything’s more entertaining when you feel like you’re getting a bargain on it.


Maine Mariners

WHEN: 7:15 p.m. Friday; season runs October through early April
WHERE: Cross Insurance Arena, 1 Civic Center Square, Portland
HOW MUCH: $10 (child 2-12) and $18 (adult) in advance for tickets on the ends, $12 (child) and $20 (adult) for tickets on the center sections in advance. Game day tickets are $14 and $20 for ends and $16 and $22 for center sections. A limited a number of “ice row” seats are $25 to $28; $2 off for military, seniors and students, with ID.
INFO: marinersofmaine.com
WHAT ELSE: Friday games include a discount on concessions through the start of the second period: $1 for hot dogs, $2 for popcorn and $3 for Bud Light beer.

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