By: Cam Jandrow
WORCESTER— On September 30th, 1994 skates first hit the ice for a Worcester AHL team. The Ice Cats faced Springfield and lost a 5-3 battle in what would be the first of 11 seasons at the Worcester Centrum Centre (now known as the DCU Center). Twenty years and two franchises later, the Worcester Sharks raise their sticks in celebration of the two-decade anniversary of AHL hockey in Worcester, Massachusetts.
To put 20-years into perspective, when the city of Worcester got a professional hockey team, gas was $1.11 per gallon, Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office, and Forrest Gump was voted as the best picture of 1994.
The Centrum was home of the Ice Cats from 1994-2005, the team made the playoffs in 9 out of the 11 seasons. Before the 2005-2006 AHL season, the franchise moved to Peoria and had their name changed to the “Rivermen.” It marked an end to an era in the “Heart of the Commonwealth.”
Following a year absence, Worcester got its hockey team back in the Sharks. Affiliate of the San Jose team with the same name. Now the newly re-named DCU Center and the City looked to embrace the new hockey team.
Eight seasons in, the Sharks have been a local staple for the people who both live in or travel to Worcester. During the course of 20 years, more than 3.8 million fans have stepped through the turnstiles and watched Worcester AHL action. The Sharks have only 3 playoff appearances and no championships, but a hardy group of loyal fans continue to flock to the DCU to root on the boys in teal and see them play during the freezing New England winters.
A contest was held for fans to generate a special new logo for this season’s festivities, and the Sharks are scheduled to have their home opener on October 18th. Mascots FINZ and Scratch will be making special appearances to commemorate the anniversary.
But the 2014-2015 season is already underway as opened up in Birmingham with a 3-2 overtime victory against the Senators. Matt Taormina scored the game winning goal with 6:34 left in OT to give Worcester its first victory of the year. Sharks head coach Roy Sommer enters his 9th season in Worcester, coming into the city with the team, and is now first on the all-time AHL games coached list with 1269 games.
Worcester hits the ice against one of their bigger rivals, the Providence Bruins, to kick-start their campaign at the DCU Center as the second half of a back-to-back affair.