Worcester’s Westward Migration Will Benefit San Jose Sharks

tom cavanagh, san jose sharks
(Dinar Blum/Flickr)

An Intriguing Change

The San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate from Worcester, Massachusetts will be moving to San Jose for the 2015-2016 season. The team will play between 30 and 40 games in downtown San Jose on nights when the arena is vacant, according to Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News. The Sharks are not alone: the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks will also be relocating their affiliate clubs, and the AHL is putting them in a five-team division that would include teams in four California cities.

San Jose Sharks fans are not overly thrilled with this news, skeptical of the idea of a farm team playing in the same arena as their NHL parent club. There may indeed be some drawbacks to this development, but it is far better than having the AHL team continue to play in Massachusetts.

The Traveling Burden

No AHL teams were located in the western United States prior to the relocations (LtPowers)

Strictly from an NHL team’s standpoint, having your farm team located in New England when you play in California is a nightmare. A total of 2,671 miles separate San Jose and Worcester, accounting for the largest distance between any NHL club and their AHL affiliate before the move was announced (2,571 miles separate Los Angeles and Manchester, New Hampshire; 2,503 miles separate Anaheim and Norfolk, Virginia). To transport a player from Worcester to the Bay Area requires at least six hours’ flight time across three time zones; players were arriving in San Jose exhausted from jet lag. But fatigued or otherwise, San Jose expected NHL caliber hockey from their call-ups right off the plane. It is little wonder they rarely got it.

At the 2012 All Star Game, Logan Couture described the commute between Worcester and San Jose as being a very difficult one, in no small part because of the time change. Couture said that he believed he had gone back and forth seven times, but expressed sympathy for a teammate that had done it 12 times. Here was one of the San Jose Sharks’ best skaters saying that the trip is grueling; there’s no telling how it might affect the performance of a player of lesser skill than Couture.

In Case of Emergency

San Jose Sharks goalie Troy Grosenick (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
San Jose Sharks goalie Troy Grosenick (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

The other flaw to Worcester’s location has to do with the time it takes to fly a player over. On November 26, 2014, the Sharks discovered that both of their backup goaltenders– Alex Stalock and Troy Grosenick– would be unavailable due to injury. They discovered this too late to call up a goalie from Massachusetts so in a panic to find a netminder who could backup Antti Niemi against the Calgary Flames that night, San Jose signed a local goaltender to a professional tryout agreement. If Niemi had gotten injured or played an atrocious game, a 31-year old man who hadn’t played hockey in over a year would have been the guy to replace him.

If San Jose was like Toronto at the time, and had their farm team located in the same city as them, they could have easily called up another professional goaltender in their organization to supplement their Finnish starter. The Sharks didn’t have that ability then, but they will next season. This will prevent the team and its fans from having another panic like the one that happened just before American Thanksgiving.

A Preview of What’s to Come

(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

One appealing aspect of having a farm team play in the same area as its parent club is that fans have the opportunity to watch some of the team’s up and coming prospects. Starting next season, fin-atics in the Bay Area will be able to watch players like Chris Tierney, Eriah Hayes, Taylor Doherty, and Troy Grosenick compete on a regular basis, a privilege that should boost ticket sales.

One could argue that the AHL affiliate should be playing in nearby San Francisco or Stockton, and not in the SAP Center, this move provides far more benefits to the Sharks’ organization than leaving the team in Worcester ever could have. It is going to be very exciting to watch some of the team’s young talent battle it out in the minors on their way to the NHL.

3 thoughts on “Worcester’s Westward Migration Will Benefit San Jose Sharks”

  1. …absolutely the best solution is for the sharks to work out a deal with the golden state warriors group that intends to build an area on sf’s waterfront embarcadero & then install their ahl team in that venue…

    …having both teams at the tank will get old fast because it’ll be a glut in a nontraditional hockey market & I believe the organization will be better served by having a good ahl team in a state of the art facility in san francisco, where the local fan base for hockey in general & also for the parent club will grow…

    …the other upside would have the team in a venue within walking or easy surface transportation of sf’s great restaurants, hotels & nightlife…as with the sf giants, the local ferry service could run a special boat that docks near the venue to accommodate we north bay hockey (& roundball fans)…

    …hockey in sf has always been at the old cow palace & any sf bay area hockey fan will tell you that it’s a lousy place for the game…the venue was built to accommodate the grand national rodeo & livestock show, so it’s a big flat bowl & seating in the first 20 rows have no real elevation to allow you to view the game…
    …the dichotomy being that best seats for hockey are the furthest from the ice where the bowl rises enough to allow you a view…

    …it’s amazing the sharks made it through two seasons there whilst the shark tank was being built but no team has thrived there for long…I attended as many of the echl’s sf bulls games as my schedule allowed & I honestly believe the venue, not the team, is what killed them…now, if the bulls had played in a proper venue closer to down town with easy fan access, they might be thriving today, as might any of the previous teams like the sf spyders…

    …well, drew, obviously I’ve been thinking (&/or dreaming) about a proper hockey venue here in the north bay / city area for a while now because although I will always remain a stanch sharks fan despite their up n’ downs, i really think san francisco could get to be a hockey town given the right opportunity…
    …there are a ton of hockey fans in the north sf bay area but it’s too long a drive to san jose & back to regularly attend sharks games…

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