No opening night for pro hockey in Worcester this season

Pretty much all the signs of autumn are around Worcester this week. High school sports are in full swing, the chill is in the air as hoodies replace the t-shirts and shorts of summer, the days are getting shorter, and the leaves are changing colors. It’s pretty much the same as it is every year, only with one major difference. For the first time since the fall of 2005 and for just the second time since 1994, as mid-October rolls around the DCU Center will have a gray slab of concrete for its floor instead of the shiny white glow of a new sheet of ice.

With no professional team here the hockey faithful don’t get the pomp and circumstance that comes with a new season. There is no season ticket holder gathering, no preseason games, no first game reunion that happens every new season as folks reconnect from the summer months. There is no anticipation of watching new players wearing the home town jersey, no talk of playoff hopes. What we have now is folks looking toward city and business leaders as pro hockey fans once again hope for a new team to call Worcester home.

Unlike after the IceCats left in 2005, when both the fans and community leaders were all behind the effort to attract a new team to call Worcester home, the vibe being felt by many hockey fans is that this current effort is not getting the attention it deserves from the folks that can make a difference. As I noted in an early August posting it seems like DCU Center General Manager Sandy Dunn and the business community have thrown all their eggs in one basket while not really looking at the whole picture.

Obviously I could be completely wrong and everyone is doing their due diligence in the matter, but suffice it to say I’m skeptical of that possibility. Unlike last time where the fan led “Save Our Hockey” was given a seat at the table during the search city leaders and the DCU Center are ignoring inquiries and suggestions from those that took part in the previous effort. It could be because they have the issue well in hand and all is looking good for pro hockey’s return here for the fall of 2016, or it could be because they don’t want to hear different opinions of what they should be looking for. It could be even worse, and that they’ve given up the effort. Reading between the lines of the article written by Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram that my previous posting rebutted I’m not so sure that isn’t the case.

Again, I could be completely wrong, but the previous public comments and now silence from city and business leaders on the issue has led to speculation by many fans that there really isn’t an effort to bring a new pro hockey team here going on. And that wouldn’t be good news for the DCU Center. A quick look at their website shows there isn’t a significant amount of new events for the arena despite not having to hold dates available for a hockey team. In fact, I’m not sure there is any event on the DCU Center’s schedule that wasn’t there in previous hockey seasons that couldn’t have been worked around had we had a hockey team here.

Good friend and WCRN newsman Sherm Whitman recently interviewed Rich Lundin, who led the fan charge in 2005 and is the current president of the hockey booster club, about getting a new team here in Worcester and some of the things we’ll be missing by not having a franchise here. You can catch part one and part two of the audio by clicking on the links.

There are of course other hockey options for fans from Worcester, with lots of AHL action taking place about an hour away in places like Hartford, Springfield, and Providence, along with an ECHL team in Manchester. There is loads of NCAA hockey around the area with some of the best college teams in the country playing an easy drive away. Here in Worcester we have Holy Cross playing a division one NCAA schedule, and while they aren’t considered one of the top-tier NCAA teams their games are always fun to attend. They opened their season last night and there were many former IceCats and WorSharks fans in the Hart Center rooting them on. But college hockey isn’t pro hockey, and in many ways it isn’t even the same game.

But until city leaders do something about bringing pro hockey back to Worcester, it’s the only game in town

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