San Jose or Bust
By Alex Sponseller
WORCESTER- After nine years of playing at the DCU Center, the Worcester Sharks’ run in the city of Worcester is over.
After a crushing 10-4 loss to the Hershey Bears in game four of the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Sharks’ once promising season came to a sudden halt, and now the team is set to begin their move to San Jose.
The team’s first playoff berth since 2010 was not enough to garner it sufficient popularity outside of the team’s season ticket holders. Low ticket sales combined with the headache-inducing distance between the Worcester Sharks and their NHL affiliate in San Jose made the move as expected as it is necessary.
Blame the Sharks’ lack of popularity on the fact that the Providence Bruins, the AHL affiliate of the NHL Boston Bruins, plays only a 30 minute drive from Worcester. Considering the shortage of San Jose Sharks fans in the area, the team seemed to be at a disadvantage from the start.
“Obviously Sharks tickets are cheaper, but why watch an AHL team that is moving when you can watch the Bruins who are usually competitive?” said Sharks fan John Kelly. “Another thing that people don’t think about is the popularity of the Hockey East (NCAA). College kids are obviously going to be more focused on their own teams that are competing on the national stage.”
Another issue that fans have mentioned is their inability to forget the once popular Worcester IceCats, the city’s previous AHL team.
“The IceCats were just a better team to watch, not because of how good they were but the environment,” said Kelly, “Back then Friday night games were the thing to do in the city; the Sharks were never really able to match it.”
Thus downward trend in the Sharks’ popularity may surprise some, given the general popularity of hockey across the Northeast, but many fans believe that the regional fervor for the sport may actually have hurt the Sharks – heightened competition between teams for fans necessarily means there will be fewer fans to go around.
With the season officially over, the team and front office is expected to vacate their current facility in the following weeks. The future of hockey in Worcester is uncertain for the time being, but many Worcester fans hope to see hockey return someday.
“The Sharks may not have had a large fan base, but there are legitimate hockey fans in Worcester that deserve a team. It doesn’t have to be the AHL, just anything to bring the sport back,” said Kelly.
As for now, the Worcester Sharks are on their way to San Jose, where they will play alongside their NHL affiliate in the SAP Center and will be known as the San Jose Barracuda.