Last night I sat in the stands for yet another fabulous American Hockey League contest between the Worcester Sharks and the Leigh Valley Phantoms (Flyers). The home team buried the Phantoms 6-1 and all of us in the crowd got to watch our team in a rousing victory. Unfortunately, the narrative behind every game for the Worcester Sharks is more than just the usual playoff push or team transactions. The Worcester parent club, the San Jose Sharks, have decided to move the team to San Jose, California. As a result, a well supported AHL franchise (6,000+ were in attendance last night) is moving out of a city that loves it. The move is part of a large westward movement of teams in the American Hockey League. Regardless of their success, five AHL teams in the East and Midwest (Worcester, the Adirondack Flames, Manchester Monarchs [Kings], Norfolk Admirals [Ducks] and the Oklahoma City Barons [Oilers] are all moving to California.
Apparently, the decision to move by all of these teams was a long time coming and involves no negative feelings about their current locations. There do not seem to be any hard feelings here in the Worcester, Massachusetts area, just sadness and regret that we will no longer have a pro hockey team on our own doorstep. The AHL markets itself as the opportunity to see tomorrow’s stars today- this is not just a nifty line. Through the Worcester Sharks and their predecessor the Worcester Ice Cats (a St. Louis Blues club), I have seen players like Barret Jackman, Tuukka Rask (on the visiting Providence Bruins), Jonathan Cheechoo, Logan Couture and many more. Furthermore, like minor league baseball, there is a casual, fun atmosphere to AHL hockey. They do fun things during intermission like chuck a puck, have eight year old hockey teams play each other for five minutes on the big ice or launching T-shirts into the stands from ice jockeys with big sling shots. My children have all enjoyed the hockey action and have developed a life long love of hockey at these games
So, we will miss the Worcester Sharks. We wish them the best in San Jose and we hope we can get another team soon. Until then, I guess we wait.