The American Hockey League is in a constant state of flux.
No more so than in recent years with the introduction of the Pacific Division.
The unseen cost is those cities and communities left without a professional team, people out of work and passionate fan bases shorn of a team to root for.
Portland (MA), Abbotsford (BC), Oklahoma City (OK), and Houston (Texas) have all recently lost their AHL teams and St. John’s look set to join that list after a couple of reprisals.
The Worcester Sharks (Massachusetts) were one of the victims of the Pacific Division formation, with San Jose moving the franchise to play out of their own NHL facility under the name “Barracuda” as of 2015-16.
Despite hosting a team in Worcester since 1994, after almost forty years without hockey, there were no immediate plans to relocate a team in the area.
Former AHL markets such as Manchester, Norfolk, and Adirondack have all received berths in the ECHL, while Peoria now have a team in the SPHL.
It was great news then when Worcester were confirmed to receive an ECHL expansion franchise as of 2017-18.
It’s not all been plain sailing, with the new ownership having gone through three names before settling on the Worcester Railers.
Team owner Cliff Rucker got as far as trying to trademark the first idea, Worcester Wildcats, but found it had been taken.
The “Whitehawks” were then settled upon with money spent on logo’s, t-shirt deigns, business cards and the like. A leaking of the name before any official announcement turned out to a blessing in disguise, as there proved to be ill-will toward the Whitehawks label and it was once again back to the drawing board.
There was then the idea to name the team after the Blackstone Canal (built in 1824) but somewhat surprising the “Canal Diggers” is also taken.
A look to Worcester’s past proved the key to the future and the city’s 180+ year railway history resulted in the Worcester Railers.
The logo features the seven hills of Worcester behind the train.
The fans have certainly taken to their new team already, with huge line-ups for a fanfest event at the DCU Center, which is where the name, logo and plans for the future were announced.
The 29th ECHL franchise will call DCU home, as the Icecats and Sharks did before them.
Situated in downtown Worcester, the Railers home is a 12,239-seat venue built in 1982, but has gone through a multi-million-dollar renovation as recently as 2013.
A chance to be a part of Worcester’s hockey history has been well received with the inaugural Railers season still well over a year away.
Initial season seat holders will have the chance to be a part of the “Founders Circle” as the first 1,000 people to join will receive once-in-a-lifetime benefits in addition to their season ticket hockey club membership.
Founders Circle members will receive benefits such as their name on a memorialized Founders Circle plaque in the DCU Center, personalized Founders Circle certificate, priority seating selection, personalized marker on each of your seats and name listed on the team’s website as part of the Founders Circle.
At the time of writing, 672 patrons have signed up and the intended target appears to be a shoe-in at this stage.
The folks of Worcester have already had to chance to interact was the naming of the Railers mascot.
Over a thousand online submissions were made and after a weekend poll, Trax, the rail yard dog will be representing the Railers.
With so many cities losing teams, it’s good to witness a forward thinking ownership combined with the full support of the local community, being successful in bringing professional hockey back to their part of the world.