AHL team forced to play home finale at practice rink after scheduling conflict

Puck Daddy

It may have been a bit of a circus on the ice for the AHL's last place Portland Pirates this season, but having an actual Big Top alter your schedule's end wasn't something many saw coming.

The Pirates lost their season finale Saturday night 5-4 to the St. John's IceCaps at MHG IceCentre. If you're thinking that name sounds like some sort of local practice rink, well, you'd be correct.

A scheduling conflict at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Maine saw the Kora Shrine Circus win out, forcing the Pirates to play in front of 550 fans at their practice facility, not the 2,000-plus on average they're use to.

Here's what it looked like:

Earlier this week, the Pirates announced that due to the venue change all tickets would be refunded and season ticket holders could use it toward a 2014-15 subscription. Separate tickets were made available for Saturday night's game with proceeds benefiting the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital. 

Via the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal, here's how this mess began:

The scheduling conflict arose earlier in the hockey season. Originally, the Pirates, an affiliate of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, were slated to play the first 12 to 15 home games of the season at the Colisee while the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland was renovated. A dispute over a lease agreement between the Pirates and the Civic Center's board of trustees erupted late in the summer, and in September, the team announced it would play its full slate of games at the Colisee.

That schedule included a three-games-in-three-nights, season-ending home stand April 18-20.

The Shrine Circus had already booked its dates in Lewiston as part of an agreement with the Colisee.

Portland's games originally scheduled for Friday and Sunday were moved and negotiations to have the game and circus remain on the same day failed.

Now that their season is over the Pirates still need to work out an extension on their agreement with the Phoenix Coyotes. 

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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