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slides: Will Worcester Give Its Heart to Yet Another Hockey Team

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Movie Poster: Slap Shot

It is time for round three for Worcester hockey. The past two rounds started off well, but both rounds ended with Worcester hockey fans getting knocked down. Each time the team leaves, it stirs images of the fictional Chiefs leaving Charlestown in the movie Slap Shot starring Paul Newman. Teams leaving their loyal fans and breaking the fans heart on their way out.

GoLocalWorcester takes a look at the history of hockey in Worcester. The city is a great sports town and many claim it to be a top hockey town, but a recent ranking of the top hockey cities scores Worcester 63 out of 74 cities ranked.

The WalletHub study ranked Worcester especially poorly for college hockey — among the worst five cities for "least accessible college hockey stadiums” and “least friendly and engaged college hockey fans.”

Two Broken Hearts

From 1994 to 2005, Worcester was home for the IceCats, but after a bad year the St. Louis Blues decided to pack up their pucks and move to Peoria, Illinois. Worcester and the DCU Center put on and were able to land the Sharks, but again a decade later that team left.

A New York Times article about the hockey in Worcester published in April of 2015 after the announcement of the Sharks leaving wrote:

“When they finally announced it, it was almost like a nail in the coffin,” said Chris O’Shea, a Sharks fan. “It’s devastating because this is my life.”
Worcester has experienced loss before. In 1994, the Worcester IceCats were born and played to sellout crowds. But as attendance dwindled, the St. Louis Blues, the IceCats’ parent organization, moved the club to Peoria, Ill., in 2005.

Photo courtesy of Worcestersharks.com

Worcester hockey fans are not the only residents fearing a life without the Sharks. Viva Bene, the restaurant that hosted the pregame party this month, often experienced a bump in business on game days, according to its manager, Keivan Mizrahi.”

Sadly, Viva Bene closed as a result of bankruptcy after 23 years.

Yet Another Team

Now, Worcester is being presented with a new team. Monday, the EHCL announced they were awarding a team to Worcester. The EHCL is a level of hockey significantly lower than the IceCats and Sharks that played in the AHL. The league is double AA hockey and unlike the AHL which shuffles players between their rosters NHL rosters all season, the ECHL is comprised of affiliated teams and independent teams alike.

As Worcester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tim Murray told GoLocalWorcester last April, "Everyone recognizes the DCU as one of the better facilities in the AHL. Three thousand on average in attendance is respectable. By and large, if you're able to bring in the right type of ownership group, I think there's the right opportunity here in Worcester."

For the DCU Center, hosting a team is critical to the viability and mission of the building. The challenge is that fans in Central Massachusetts are used to the talent and rivalries of the AHL and now will be presenting an expansion team in a lower level of play. The question is will Central Massachusetts lend their heart to another team and a lower level of talent. Time will tell.



Related Slideshow: A History of Hockey in Worcester

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Worcester's 1st Pro Hockey Team, Worcester Warriors 

The Worcester Warriors played their first season as part of the Eastern Hockey League (EHL). The Warriors played their games at Worcester (Webster Square) Arena. 

In their first season, under Head Coach John "Hans" Marsden, the Warriors went 3-17 and finished in last place. 

Other Teams in the EHL that season included the Washington Lions, Clinton Comets, New Haven Blades and Baltimore Clippers. 

Photo is of Harold Songin, courtesy of EHL.com

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Warriors Join Atlantic Hockey League 

After just one season in the EHL, the Warriors joined the Atlantic Hockey League for the 1955-56 season. 

However, the 1956 season would be the last season for the Atlantic Hockey League and in turn, the last season for the Warriors. 

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Worcester Crusaders Youth Hockey is Established 

The Worcester Crusaders served as one of the oldest youth hockey organizations in the Massachusetts. 

The Crusaders competed in the New England Hockey League, one of the best youth hockey leagues in North America. 

For the 2011/12 season, the Crusaders sponsored 9 teams ranging from mite division to midget division. 

Photo courtesy of Crusaders website

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The IceCats Come to Worcester 

The IceCats came to Worcester prior to the 1994-95 season and played their games at the Worcester Centrum. 

The IceCats went 24-45-11 in their first season and finished in 6th place in the conference. 

However, the IceCats would turn it around and make the playoffs in every season after that, except 2004-2005, but would never advance past the second round. 

Notable players from the IceCats include goaltender Dwayne Roloson, enforcer Sylvain Blouin, Steve Staios, Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Nagy and Terry Virtue. 

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Worcester IceCats are Moved to Illinois 

After the St. Louis Blues announced the sale of the IceCats in 2004, the team was moved prior to the 2005-2006 season to Peoria Illinois. 

The team was known was the Peoria Riverman from 2005-2013, and is currently known as the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. 

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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Sharks Arrive in Worcester 

The Cleveland Barons were moved to Worcester and became the Sharks, the AHL Affiliate of the San Jose Sharks. 

The Sharks played their first home game on October 14 in front of a sold out DCU Center. 

In their first season, Worcester went 41-28-3 (OT Loss)- 8 (shootout Loss) and made the playoffs. The Sharks lost to the Manchester Monarchs in the first round. 

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Sharks Have Most Successful Season 

Sharks had their best season in 2009-10 when they went 49-25-3-3 and finished in first place in the Atlantic Division. 

The Sharks made the playoffs but lost in the second round to the Manchester Monarchs. 

The captain of the team was Ryan Vescue and the Head Coach was Roy Sommer. 

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Worcester Crusaders Merge With the Worcester Junior Sharks  

The two organizations combined bring in more than 550 kids and just over 92 USA Hockey certified coaches.

The Worcester Junior Sharks program is structured to allow each player to develop and test their skills at three distinct levels of competition (House, Travel and AAA Elite) 

For more information on the Junior Sharks, click here. 

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Jan. 29, 2015

AHL Announces Sharks are Moving to San Jose 

The American Hockey League announced that at seasons end, the Worcester Sharks would be packing up and going across country to become the San Jose Barracuda. 

The move was made so that the San Jose Sharks would be able to call up and send down players easier. 

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April, 25 2015

Sharks Play Final Home Game 

The Sharks played their final home game at the DCU Center and it was a playoff game. 

However, the Sharks would fall in the game 3-1 to the Hershey Bears in front of 4,045 at the DCU Center. 

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May 1, 2015

Sharks Play Final Game

In their final game, the Worcester Sharks lost 10-4 to the Hershey Bears, losing the playoff series 3-1. 

In 9 seasons in Worcester, the Sharks made the playoffs 4 times, never advancing past the second round. 

Notable players in Worcester Sharks history include Jonathan Cheechoo, Sandis Ozolinsh, Joe Pavelski and Claude Lemieux. 

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February 6-7, 2016

Shrewsbury Youth Hockey Hosts First Ever Pond Hockey Tournament

The Shrewsbury Youth Hockey Association held the First Annual Pond Hockey Classic, at Shrewsbury's historic Dean Park. 

The Worcester Junior Sharks were among 24 teams that participated the tournament. 

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February 8, 2016

ECHL Announces Team Coming to Worcester

The ECHL announced that the league's board of governors unanimously approved the new membership application from Worcester Pro Hockey LLC.

The first puck drop for the new franchise is set for the 2017-18 season, a season that also marks the 30th anniversary of the ECHL. 

The team name and logo will be announced at a fan fest that is set to take place on April 3, 2016, at the DCU Center.


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