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Bruins’ East Coast Team Could be Destined for DCU Center

Monday, February 09, 2015

 

Following this season, the Worcester Sharks will be moving to San Jose and leaving a trail of Sharks fan wondering when hockey will return to Worcester. Whispers around the DCU Center are saying that time might not be too far off.

"I think just opening up the dialogue, speaking with the Bruins, even about the ECHL(East Coast Hockey League) team, I think it’s the only thing that would work around here. Unless it’s locally owned and called the IceCats. The #1 goal is to look into an ECHL affiliate with the Bruins with local ownership. It would be important to have ties to the community. This is Bruins country. People can wear the black and gold," said Rich Lundin, President of the Worcester Sharks Booster Club.

According to Lundin, DCU Center General Manager Sandy Dunn has had numerous conversations with ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna about bringing an ECHL team to the city. 

The Bruins' ECHL affiliate is the South Carolina Stingrays. The Stingrays are also affiliated with the Washington Capitals. The Stingrays are owned by a local business conglomerate in North Charleston, South Carolina. They are currently on a one-year agreement with the ECHL.

Former Sharks employee and NCAA Division 1 Hockey Referee told GoLocal Worcester, "The Sharks have a following and people enjoy it. It's a situation where they have a booster club and season ticket holders, so there's going to be a good chunk of people that are going to be disappointed. The difference is how far along they are in getting another team in the arena. Nothing has been mentioned yet, however."

"It’s a trickle down effect. What you’re seeing is more and more NHL teams owning their AHL teams. And now they’re going to start looking at owning their ECHL affiliates. Although they need to look at how things are configured, long term deals aren’t out of the question, especially if the team is close to home," said Lundin.

On Friday, GoLocal Worcester columnist Turtleboy, asked whether or not Worcester is even a viable place to have an AHL team. Turtleboy said, "I was recently contacted by a nice Worcester guy who is trying to start a movement to get another minor league hockey team in Worcester. However, instead of going after San Jose (Sharks) or St. Louis’ (IceCats) minor league affiliates, they want to see them go after the white whale – the Bruins. The problem is of course that the Bruins minor league affiliate plays in Providence."

The Providence Bruins are owned by H. Larue Renfroe of Massachusetts. Renfroe also owns the New England Sports Center in Marlborough. While signed petitions may be an attempt to lure the Providence Bruins to Worcester, it will likely be futile. This past August, the Bruins agreed to a long-term affiliation deal with the 'P-Bruins.'

“I think there’s a pretty slim chance of another AHL team coming to Worcester. There’s just no teams available right now at all. Even the ones that are current, there are going to be more that are moving out west over the next couple years. They’ll probably be expanding the NHL and when they do expand they’ll be adding more AHL teams. Whether they come here or not is kind of up in the air," said Lundin.

"I think the league has been probably looking at this for a while," said Lemoine. "If you think about all the teams that are out west that have their teams in the east, they do it because it's easier to travel because all of the teams are in the east, but it's harder to call guys up and down. If you compare it to the (Boston) Bruins, when they call up a guy from Providence, it's a lot easier than San Jose calling up a guy from Worcester. They have to get on a cross-country flight. It gets expensive when a guy is going up and down between leagues all the time.". 

"We need to start acting like the second largest city in New England," said Lundin. "The city and the business community need to step up and support. Otherwise, the DCU potentially goes dark for 38 dates, people are out of work, and businesses around the DCU lose business. Also, the Sharks donate over $100,000 each year to the community. Finz does 300 plus appearances with players to schools, hospitals, etc. Even our booster club donates $2000 worth of toys to Friendly House Xmas Party. Who/what else would fill the gap?"

 

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