The Worcester Sharks will pack up and head west this summer. San Jose Sharks COO John Tortora officially announced today that their top developmental affiliate will relocate to San Jose next season and play at the SAP Center.
The American Hockey League will move 5 of its teams to California for the 2015-16 season to begin play in the all new Pacific Division. The affiliates of the Ducks, Kings, Oilers and Flames will join the currently nameless San Jose minor league team in the move.
"No, they will not be called the Sharks," said John Tortora. "We will announce a new name for the team in the next few weeks." He said the organization is still deciding after kicking around a few concepts.
The new team will play at SAP Center, and Tortora said they will try to schedule many of its games on Saturday afternoons before the Sharks play on those Saturday nights. He also said he'd like to schedule one game per month on a weekday afternoon, hoping to reach out to local schools for field trips.
The idea is to attract more families, and hockey fans priced out of going to Sharks games. The crowd who attended the summer prospect game had many more families and college students than the average Sharks game. Tortora expects attendance to average 3000-5000 fans per game. If that's true, SAP Center should expect about a 15% boost in yearly attendance.
|Organization||AHL Affiliate||New Location|
|San Jose Sharks||Worcester Sharks||San Jose|
|Anaheim Ducks||Norfolk Admirals||San Diego|
|Los Angeles Kings||Manchester Monarchs||Ontario|
|Calgary Flames||Adirondack Flames||Stockton|
|Edmonton Oilers||Oklahoma City Barons||Bakersfield|
The Sharks' affiliate will practice at Sharks Ice at San Jose. A new locker room will have to be added to the Sharks' four-rink facility. While the San Jose Sharks official practice rink is the South Rink, the new team will make the East rink their home. "At least right now," said Tortora.
There were some rumors that Sharks Ice might build a new rink to house the minor league team. There was also speculation that the SAP Center might just be a temporary home before moving to the new arenas being built in San Francisco or Sacramento, or to Oracle Arena in Oakland.
"We did look at other options," said Tortora. "We looked at all the major Northern California cities you would think of." He said every option had positives and negatives, but at the moment, San Jose was the best option because of how much easier it makes the approach of player development.
"I think everybody in this business knows that the foundation of what you do is drafting and development," said Sharks GM Doug Wilson. With the move out west, the general managers of the 3 California teams can now easily make a trip to see their prospects play and practice. Ducks GM Bob Murray echoed that sentiment. "There's no price tag you can put on that, it's just so valuable," said Murray.
Wilson said he expects to utilize call-ups more often with the team in the same town, not three timezones away. The era of the "Worcester Shuttle" is over. Unfortunately, that means we probably won't see any more emergency back-up goaltenders anymore. San Jose State's Ryan Lowe got in at exactly right time.
Otherwise, this looks like nothing but a positive for the development hockey in California. A new generation of kids in California will get to grow up going to see the five new franchises. We've already seen players from California cracking the NHL in the past few years. Matt Tennyson and Alec Martinez are former Junior Sharks. And as you may have heard, Emerson Etem and Matt Nieto are from Long Beach.
Sorry Minnesota, California is the new State of Hockey.