At the beginning of the AHL season, my boy’s class sang the National Anthem at the hometown Worcester Sharks opening game against the Providence Bruins. That night they raised a banner celebrating 20 years of AHL Hockey in the city. The Ice Cats were in town for 9 years before they moved to Peoria. The year following that move, the Worcester Sharks sprang to live and have been a part of the city for the last 11 years.
There are three more home games left on the Worcester because after this season, they’re relocating to San Jose – where there will then be two professional hockey teams named “Sharks.”
Now, minor league hockey teams move all. the. time. Hell, take a look at the AHL Wikipedia page – Worcester is losing the Sharks, Glens Falls NY, Manchester NH, and Norfolk VA are also losing their teams, although Glens Falls and Manchester will get some other city’s teams. Minor leagues are like that and thus, it’s hard to be a fan of a minor league team.
Two weeks after the San Jose Sharks announced the Worcester affiliate would be relocating, the Pawtucket Red Sox were sold – interestingly enough, by a group including Larry Lucchino the CEO of the big team. And yes, the Paw Sox will be moving…to another city in Rhode Island and given the size of the state, one city really isn’t too far from another (It’s literally a 10 minute drive from Pawtucket to Providence). In that case, it’s not even about being a fan; the Red Sox aren’t going anywhere, I mean Pawtucket is an hour drive to Fenway and Providence is merely 5 minutes farther.
When Major League teams make a pitch for public stadium financing, economic development is a selling point; which is really a tug at the heartstrings of civic pride. Minor league teams really don’t have an economic value proposition; it’s all civic pride. And they move with such regularity because that’s all there is.
It hurts a bit, not because I’m such an overwhelming AHL hockey fan – I may go to one game a season – it’s just that it’s a nice take. $18 for a ticket. Got a kid? Great! $5. Where else is the elementary school chorus going to try out their chops in front of a packed stadium? It sounds corny, but it’s a validation. And think about this: the Boston Bruins have been around since 1924 and you don’t see a celebration and a special logo announcing “90 years of NHL Hockey in Boston.” Cities with a sense of worth and civic pride don’t need that. It’s the minor league cities that do.
So, Sunday’s game was “Star Wars” night. Star Wars – a theme that bears exactly zero relevance to either the game of hockey, the city of Worcester, or the Sharks organization. Some guy just said, “Hey, we should have a Star Wars night.” And thus, Darth Vader dropped the puck, Jawas threw t-shirts into the crowd (one landed in the Sno-cone of a kid sitting in my row). It was ridiculous. But perfect.
Of course all the $120 sweaters were now $55 on clearance – the logo is pretty much the same as the San Jose parent team, with the secondary logo being a “W.” So really, if there actually any hockey fans in San Jose it wouldn’t be so bad to pick up a Worcester sweater. Oh, and “sweater” is what you should be calling a “jersey.” It’s hockey, eh. They’re sweaters.
So, if the status quo persists, Worcester will be without a hockey team for the first time since 1994. Sad but true, but since there aren’t new teams springing up, my desire for the civic pride means that some other city would have to lose a piece of theirs. Manchester, New Hampshire has a team but Worcester doesn’t? The 10th largest city in New England has a team, but the second (possibly third) doesn’t? Be that as it may, as of the end of the playoffs, Worcester will no longer have a hockey team. One more blow to a second rate city.
Oh, and there’s still no news on “Deflate-Gate.” Also, not for nothing, Bob Kravitz (the joker who “broke” the story) commented at one point back in February that some development “hurt the NFL’s case” and I tweeted back that an organization conducting an investigation shouldn’t have “a case,” but that the issue hurt Kravitz’s case. So, Goodell reiterates the same – the league has made no decision. Kravitz, if someone seems to good to be true – such a block buster story winding up on your lap – it probably is. This was the biggest story of your career because you’re a hack loser. That’s all.