AHL Welcomes Worcester Sharks

Sharks Minor Holdings President Michael Lehr and San Jose Sharks President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison have reached an agreement with SMG and DCU Center to have the Sharks American Hockey League franchise play in Worcester beginning with the 2006 -2007 season.

Those interested in season tickets or corporate partnership possibilities should go to www.sharksahl.com where more than 1,500 season ticket pledges have already been submitted.

Approval for the Sharks to place their top development affiliate in Worcester came from the AHL Board of Governor’s today –January 9th.

Lehr and Jamison made the announcement in conjunction with Worcester City Manager, Michael O’Brien, DCU Center General Manager Sandy Dunn and American Hockey League President David Andrews. Joining them for the announcement were San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson and Worcester General Manager (and Sharks Vice President and Assistant General Manager) Wayne Thomas.

“Locating this franchise in Worcester has many benefits, including a closer proximity to other AHL clubs, more favorable travel issues, a wealth of hockey fans and a building better suited to our business model,” said Lehr. “The success of our new franchise will be built on the partnership between the city of Worcester, DCU Center and the Sharks.”

The Worcester Sharks will utilize the same colors of the NHL franchise (Deep Atlantic Teal, Gray, Burnt Orange and Black) and the same logo (the world-famous menacing Shark chomping through a hockey stick).

"The American Hockey League is thrilled to be returning to Worcester in October of 2006,” said AHL Commissioner Dave Andrews. “I would like to congratulate all of the parties who have worked so hard to launch a new era of professional hockey at the DCU Center, in particular the City Manager and Council, SMG, the San Jose Sharks organization, and especially the passionate hockey fans in Worcester. The DCU center has been significantly enhanced for AHL hockey next season, and partnering with the San Jose Sharks, one of the premier organizations in the National Hockey League, ensures that Worcester will have an AHL club which the community can be proud of in every way."

"Worcester is officially Sharks territory," said Worcester City Manager Michael V. O'Brien. "I am more than thrilled that we are partnering with the San Jose Sharks, a premier NHL team and organization that has chosen to place their AHL franchise here. Our DCU Center will now host exciting, competitive professional hockey, completely family friendly, with 33 of at least 40 games per year scheduled on weekends. This is tremendous for hockey fans and for the entire City."

DCU Center, which opened in 1982 and was renamed the DCU Center in October 2004, will be retrofitted with a curtaining system to create an exciting, more intimate venue with an approximate capacity of 7,000 seats. In addition the City of Worcester and SMG have committed to making significant improvements in the building’s hockey facilities to accommodate their new AHL partner.

Over the past decade, drafting and developing talent has been the hallmark of the Sharks, who opened the 2005-06 NHL season with the league’s highest percentage of players on their roster who were developed in the system (nearly 70%). Current Russian Olympic and past NHL All-Star netminder Evgeni Nabokov spent three seasons developing at the Sharks top development affiliate as did Jonathan Cheechoo, who is on track to lead the San Jose Sharks in scoring for a second consecutive campaign.

While based in San Jose, the parent club realizes the importance of New England hockey, as one third of the club’s reserve list has New England ties. Current San Jose Sharks Niko Dimitrakos (Somerville, Mass.) and Jim Fahey (Milton, Mass. – Northeastern University) grew up in the area. Current AHL prospects Tom Cavanagh (Warwick, RI – Harvard), Josh Hennessy (Brockton, Mass.), Josh Prudden (Andover, Mass. – New Hampshire), Patrick Rissmiller (Belmont, Mass. – Holy Cross) and Garrett Stafford (New Hampshire) were raised or played collegiately in the area.

In addition, numerous Sharks prospects currently play in the area. The include P.J. Fenton (Springfield, Mass. – UMASS, Amherst), Michael Hutchins (Wolfebro, NH – New Hampshire), Carter Lee (Northeastern), David MacDonald (Harvard), Brian Mahoney-Wilson (Boston, Mass.), Torrey Mitchell (Vermont), 2002 1st round selection Mike Morris (Dorchester, Mass. – Northeastern), Brian O’Hanley (Quincy, Mass. – Boston College), Dan Spang (Winchester, Mass. – Boston University) and Tom Walsh (Arlington, Mass. – Harvard).

The San Jose Sharks front office has heavy New England ties as well. Current Worcester Sharks General Manager Wayne Thomas has a permanent residence in East Falmouth, Mass. San Jose Sharks Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Burke proudly hails from Melrose, Mass., and still resides in the state and Professional Scout Cap Raeder, who grew up and still lives in Needham, Mass., played for the New England Whalers of the old World Hockey Association and was an All-American goaltender for the University of New Hampshire.

“We expect to bring a very exciting brand of hockey to Worcester,” said Jamison. “The Worcester Sharks will be very involved in the local community, we will partner with the local businesses and the fans and more importantly, we will provide area hockey fans with a product to be extremely proud of and one that will be easy to support.”

"Worcester, the second largest city in Massachusetts, population 176,000, is a center for higher education, medical and biotechnology research, as well as an important manufacturing, insurance, transportation and cultural hub located 45 miles west of Boston The city is experiencing a resurgence with more than $1 billion in mostly privately financed economic development projects either underway or in an advanced stage of planning. Worcester is home to Holy Cross College, Clark University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Assumption College, the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Worcester State College, Becker College, and Quinsigamond Community College and just outside the city, Anna Maria College. The Massachusetts Biotechnology Research Park is the home of research facilities for numerous companies, and ground has just been broken on a new $250-million bio-medical research park."

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