Worcester, Mass. is now officially Sharks territory. On January 9, Sharks Minor Holdings President Michael T. Lehr and Sharks President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison announced that they had reached an agreement with the DCU Center to place San Jose’s top development affiliate team in Worcester, beginning in the 2006-07 season. The team will play as the Worcester Sharks.
“Locating this franchise in Worcester has many benefits, including a closer proximity to other AHL clubs, more favorable travel issues, a wealth of hockey fans and a building better suited to our business model,” said Lehr at a press conference to announce the move. “The success of our new franchise will be built on the partnership between the City of Worcester, the DCU Center and the Sharks.”
One of the critical elements to this move is the Worcester fans, who were praised as “passionate” by AHL President and CEO David Andrews. The announced schedule will include 33 of 40 home games played on weekends to allow a more family-friendly atmosphere. Many fans were also commended for their work holding ticket drives, encouraging local business involvement and continuing to enthusiastically support of the game of hockey.
"I believe it's a great testimony to the fans in Central Massachusetts,” Mayor Timothy P. Murray said. “Hockey has long been a part of the Worcester experience and we're excited about continuing that tradition."
The fans of Worcester cheered for the Ice Cats for 11 seasons. At the end of the 2004-05 season, the team was sold and moved to Peoria, IL.
Cleveland has been the primary development site for the Sharks since 2001-02, when Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment purchased the franchise and relocated them to Ohio from Lexington, KY. The team will retain the same colors as their parent club (Deep Atlantic Teal, Gray, Burnt Orange and Black) and their current logo (the world-famous menacing Shark chomping through a hockey stick).
Worcester, the second largest city in Massachusetts, is just 45 miles outside Boston and boasts an impressive array of universities, as well as loyal hockey fans. Hockey plays a major role in the lives of the youth, which is shown by the remarkable list of current and prospective Sharks players from the area. Niko Dimitrakos and Jim Fahey, both current Sharks, grew up in the vicinity of the DCU Center. As many as five current AHL prospects grew up or played collegiately in the area. Wayne Thomas, general manager of the Worcester Sharks, has a permanent residence in Massachusetts.
The Worcester Sharks will find traveling easier, as they are in much closer proximity to many of the AHL teams located on the East Coast. The DCU Center will be an excellent host to the new team, as well as the 6,500 fans who are expected to attend each game.
“This is tremendous for hockey fans and for the entire city," said Worcester City Manager Michael V. O'Brien. "I am more than thrilled that we are partnering with the San Jose Sharks, a premier NHL team, to be the development location for their AHL franchise.”
Sharks players Jim Fahey and Doug Murray, prime examples of San Jose's dedication to drafting and development, meet VIP's at the press conference.
Young fans in Worcester, Mass. are thrilled to have an AHL team back in town.
Sharks EVP and GM Doug Wilson addresses the crowd at the press conference.