Rome sweet home: Railers captain skates full circle, glad to be back in Worcester

Ashton Rome came to the American Hockey League’s Worcester Sharks in 2006 as a 20-year-old farm boy from Manitoba. It was his first time living on his own, at a time in which he remembers having no real-life responsibilities.

Everything was an adjustment. In the tiny town of Nesbitt, Manitoba, it took a 25-minute drive to get anywhere, but Rome also knew it would be only a 25-minute drive. In Massachusetts, there are a lot more attractions within a short commute — but a 15-minute drive can quickly turn into an hour when traffic is against you.

“I’d never really lived on my own,” Rome said. “I went from small cities in Canada to a pretty big city in the U.S. That’s a pretty big change for a kid who grew up on the farm. It ended up working out nicely. I enjoyed living in a city and enjoyed living in the U.S. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Rome lived with Sharks teammate Riley Armstrong, whose girlfriend brought a friend over to the apartment one day. That friend was Methuen native Mackenzie Morin.

Rome is a top faceoff man for the Railers.

A decade later, Rome is back playing in Worcester — now as a captain of the Railers, the first-year ECHL team in town. Rome, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound right wing, has been married to Mackenzie for seven years. They’re expecting their third child later this month.

Worcester Weekly: Gingerbread, ‘Christmas Carol,’ St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble, ‘Star Wars’ benefit + more, Dec. 10-16

The most fun you’ll have with a calendar of events all week. And you just might learn something, too.

Saturday, Dec. 9 — “A Christmas Journey,” 10:30 a.m. to noon, EcoTarium, 222 Harrington Way Primed by a reading of the holiday tale “Polar Express,” young ones will happily follow this “journey” at the EcoTarium. Participants hear a classic tale, are whisked away to the North Pole via the museum’s excellent Planetarium, and experience the sugar spike of hot cocoa and cookies.

Santa will be there for the kiddies, and every child will receive a bell ornament to take home and savor until the family cat claims ownership. Times are 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. The popular program is also held Sunday, Dec. 10, which marks its final session this year. Tickets are $25 (includes museum admission), $10 for museum members, and must be purchased in advance.

Worcester Weekly: Worcester City Tournament, Social Upheaval + more, Nov. 12-18

The most fun you’ll have with a calendar of events all week. And you just might learn something, too.

Tuesday, Nov. 14 — Worcester Railers vs. Brampton Beast, 10:05 a.m., DCU Center, 50 Foster St.  Consider this a rivalry game, Railers fans — the Beast are the ECHL affiliate of the hated Montreal Canadiens. And while the new hometown team is aligned with the NHL’s New York Islanders, a) they don’t like the Canadiens much either (who does, eh?) and b) this is still Bruins country. So sharpen the elbows and bring on the intensity for this one.

Railers goalie Mitch Gillam, 25 — and Canadian, but not a Canadien — who started the last three seasons at Cornell University, is among the ECHL leaders in goals against average (first, at 2.00, after Friday’s games) and save percentage (eighth, .929).

Worcester Weekly: Municipal Election, ‘A Christmas Story’ + more, Nov. 5-11

The most fun you’ll have with a calendar of events all week. And you just might learn something, too.

Sunday, Nov. 5 — Worcester Railers vs. Reading Royals, 3:05 p.m., DCU Center, 50 Foster St.  The Railers may not pack the DCU Center every night, but it appears the team’s decision makers loaded the roster with talent.

Patrick McNally is tied for eighth in the ECHL with 5 goals, after scoring again in Friday’s 4-2 win over the Royals. (He scored four goals in two AHL seasons with the San Jose Barracuda after a standout career at Harvard.) McNally’s plus-11 rating was tops in the league after Friday’s games, and the T&G’s Bill Ballou, who’s seen a few hockey games in his long career, says McNally looks like one of the best players in the ECHL.

Railers’ Lannon hopes to have extended comeback up his sleeves

Ryan Lannon’s plans for this winter included a cross-country road trip and selling sportcoats. Well, not just any sportcoats, actually.

“It’s kind of a niche market,” Lannon said. “It’s a business casual athletic look. No one else makes short-sleeve [sportcoats].”

Inspired by summer weddings on Cape Cod in which the men scorch and sweat in the heat, Lannon planned to drive to locales where it’s hot year-round, such as Southern California, to sell his short-sleeve sportcoats as well as other apparel.

It sounds like a wild idea. But it’s not the only time Lannon has had one of those. He said his parents are used to him telling them he’s going to do something a little, well, unexpected.

Like, for example, when he told them last month he wanted to come out of retirement four years after his last game as a professional hockey player to join up with the expansion Worcester Railers of the ECHL.

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 208]: Worcester and the Railers, love at first ice

Worcester is a town that likes to get its buzz on.

Whether it’s the Amazon and PawSox bids, City Square, the Canal District, airport and rail innovation, solar farms or yellow bicycles, as long as the Woo’s trending, the powers-that-be are happy.

Cliff Rucker and Worcester Railers HC have quickly become a driving force of buzz-worthiness, and the team’s debut to more than 12,000 raucous fans at the DCU Center pulsed even more electricity through downtown.

Hitch, for one, is charged up.

Worcester Railers tracking rare sellout to open inaugural season

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.

Rich LeBlanc / Worcester Railers HC

Chris Langkow is a 28-year-old forward from Canada who last season played for a now-defunct Slovenian team in the Austrian Hockey League.

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.