In their nine seasons of existence, the Worcester Sharks never sold out the DCU Center. The closest the American Hockey League club ever came to a sellout was in February 2012, when the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski spiked a puck at center ice. Even that spectacle left the crowd more than 2,000 tickets short of a packed house.
The Sharks’ AHL predecessor, the Worcester IceCats, did slightly better. The team registered two sellouts, both in 1995, during its decade in the city.
Attendance declined in each of the Sharks’ final three seasons in Worcester. In the club’s final season here before moving to California in 2014-15, the average paid attendance was 3,847, which ranked in the bottom third of the AHL.
The NHL’s San Jose Sharks didn’t move their AHL affiliate out of Worcester because of attendance issues. They wanted their minor-league team to join them on the West Coast. But there weren’t many Worcester fans showing up to prove they wanted the team to stay, either.
This week, professional hockey returns to Central Massachusetts for the first time in more than two years. The Worcester Railers open their first season as an ECHL (formerly East Coast Hockey League) expansion team on Saturday, Oct. 14, when they host the Manchester Monarchs.
The Railers hope that in one game, they can achieve what the Sharks never did and fill the 12,316-seat DCU Center.
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