The New York Islanders announced today that they have reached an affiliation agreement with the Worcester Railers Hockey Club of the ECHL for the 2017-18 season. Worcester joins the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League as the primary minor league affiliates for the Islanders organization.
"We are excited to partner with the Worcester Railers Hockey Club as our new ECHL affiliate and bring professional hockey back to an already established hockey city," Islanders President and General Manager Garth Snow said. "The proximity of having our ECHL team within driving distance from Bridgeport and the Islanders is a definite benefit. The Railers great ownership group, led by Cliff Rucker, has set a platform for our prospects to develop their game in their brand new practice facility, Worcester Ice Center facility. We've had several members of the current Islanders team play games in the ECHL and look forward to continuing that trend with the Railers."
Based in Worcester, Mass., the Railers will play their inaugural season in the ECHL's Eastern Conference, starting in October of 2017. Founded in 2016, the Railers are the first-ever ECHL franchise to play in the state of Massachusetts.
"The Worcester Railers are thrilled to become affiliates with a first-class organization in the New York Islanders," Railers General Manager and Head Coach Jamie Russell said. "We are looking forward to working closely with the organization to help develop their prospects, while at the same time having the overall goal to win hockey games."
Worcester was previously the home to Worcester Warriors from 1954-56 in the now-defunct Eastern Hockey League, the Worcester IceCats (AHL) from 1994-2005 and the Worcester Sharks (AHL) from 2006-2015.
The Railers will play their home games at the DCU Center and practice at the new state-of-the-art multi-use dual rink facility Worcester Ice Center, located in the heart of the Canal District in Worcester.
"Our new affiliation with the Islanders includes integration into their scouting system, strength and conditioning program, and training camps among other things," Russell said. "We are excited for the players and the fans as we bring a whole new level of professional hockey to Massachusetts and are paired up with an organization that has been built through its development to become a perennial playoff contender."
Several Islanders prospects saw time in the ECHL last season, including Matthew Finn, Eamon McAdam, Carter Verhaeghe, Kyle Schempp and Jesse Graham. Four Islanders players that finished the 2016-17 season with the team who spent a portion of their careers in the ECHL include J.F. Berube, Thomas Greiss, Jaroslav Halak and Alan Quine. In addition, Thomas Greiss and Bracken Kearns both saw significant time in Worcester with the now defunct Worcester Sharks.