The Portland Pirates are changing affiliates in 2015-16 and it could have been a great time to alter the logo. They made their last major update to the logo in 2002 and a revamp feels overdue. The club’s logo isn’t all that bad, but the color scheme feels dated.
(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.) Without so much as making a single signing, the Portland Pirates have likely improved enough this off-season to make a significant climb in the Eastern Conference standings. Thanks to a change in affiliation, the Pirates are no longer the AHL representative of the Phoenix Coyotes and, in a sense, this upcoming season’s Pirates team will be the same club that the West Division champion San Antonio Rampage iced in 2014-15. That means gone are the likes of
Jordan Martinook and
Dylan Reese, and in come the likes of
Brett Olson and
Rocco Grimaldi. That said, the Rampage, and in turn the Pirates, did lose two of their top three leading scorers as both
Bobby Butler and
Mark Mancari signed in Europe. Replacements are coming, though. This off-season the Panthers signed 26-year-old Shane Harper, who scored 32 goals and 50 points with the Chicago Wolves in 2014-15, and he’s likely to spend the year in Portland. Up front, the club also added
Rob Flick, who had 19 goals and 24 points with Providence and Gregg McKegg, while defensemen
Sena Acolatse and
Brent Regner will also join the roster. That’s not a bad group to add to your AHL ranks. Add to it that goaltender
Mike McKenna will stay in Portland — his contract with Arizona ended and he was signed by Florida to a two-year deal — and you’ve got the makings of a team that could make some noise in the Atlantic Division. Because of the AHL’s structure, a franchise can sometimes get a boost simply due to the business side of the NHL. In 2015-16, it looks like San Antonio will be a beneficiary of one of those bumps.
Team History: The Erie Blades were part of the North American League, Northeastern League and Eastern League before they finally landed in the AHL, which is where Portland’s franchise history really begins. The Blades, three time champions in their previous leagues, didn’t last long as an AHL franchise, however. After one AHL season in Erie in 1981-82, the Blades left Erie to merge with the Atlantic Coast League’s Baltimore Skipjacks. The Skipjacks would be affiliated with the Boston Bruins in their inaugural AHL season, but the real success came in the 1983-84 season when the Pittsburgh Penguins became Baltimore’s NHL affiliate. In the first two seasons as Pittsburgh’s farm club, the Skipjacks would get to the semi-final and league final, but would come just a pair of wins short of capturing the franchise’s first Calder Cup. After their consecutive deep playoff runs, the Skipjacks would go on a four-year playoff drought, which led to the Washington Capitals taking over as the top affiliate of the Skipjacks. The team remained in Baltimore until 1993, when they were uprooted and moved to Portland, Maine. Under coach Barry Trotz, the Pirates won the Calder Cup in their very first season and returned to the final two years later, losing in seven games to the Rochester Americans. Never since have the Pirates returned to the final. Over the 22-year tenure in Portland — which has included affiliations with the Capitals, Sabres and Coyotes — the Pirates have missed the playoffs in only six seasons. The club came close to moving in 2013-14, however, after an arena lease dispute saw the club play in Lewiston. A new, five-year lease deal was signed late in the season and the Pirates returned to Portland for the 2014-15 campaign. The all-time leading scorer in franchise history is Kent Hulst, who scored 147 goals and 360 points for the Pirates from 1993-2001. Andrew Brunette is the all-time assists leader with 224.
Logo History: The Erie Blades logo was about what one would expect from a team called the Blades and the mark was only around the AHL for one season. The real question when it comes to the franchise’s logo history is why the Skipjacks ever changed their logo once getting to Baltimore. We’ll never know, but the original logo was great.
A ship’s wheel with the team name around the outside, crossed sticks and a puck, the original logo was eventually replaced by a simple, shortened, script version of the name laid over another wheel. An updated original logo would have looked much better, but any change was for naught anyway, as the club moved to Portland after making yet another alteration — this time only color — to the Skipjacks’ crest.
If the current Pirates logo is ranked 23rd, it’s hard to say where the original version of the logo would have come in. One thing is for certain, though: it would have come in closer to 30. There’s something to be said for simple logos, but it takes a second to realize the silhouette of the pirate’s face isn’t supposed to be the entire outline of the circle. At first blush, the pirate looks like he’s got a giant, round face. Having the hockey stick/dagger in the mouth is a nice touch, however.
Current Logo: The cartoon pirate isn’t that bad. That said, it’s hard not to wonder if the logo would benefit from either removing the stick and gloves and giving a face-on view of the pirate or extending the body downward in much
the same way the Milwaukee Admirals have in the past. The color scheme of the logo also feels like it could use an update. Nothing drastic, really, but just a touch up or a slight alteration would help. If the logo used a brighter red, it might pop more, as the current black, grey and deep red scheme looks very much like the logos of the early 1990s.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)