Editorial: New team in town

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It’s a big Worcester win.

Hockey on home ice is coming back in a year and a half, a pretty swift turnaround after the Sharks left the DCU Center for California last year.

And, though there are no players on the roster yet, it’s clear that this fledgling club will have an experienced team behind it. President and General Manager Toby O’Brien seems made for the job, a native Cape Codder with a deep hockey resume who exudes love for the sport and for teamwork, and who wants to share this ECHL venture with his new community.

That would be us — a city with plenty of fan energy to tap.

Worcester has been fond of its hockey. Trips to the DCU Center downtown to cheer on the team, see familiar faces, follow the fast action and wave goofy souvenirs constitute a relatively affordable and family-friendly outing. Many missed all that this season. The hiatus won’t break until the new team’s first game in October 2017 — but at least the clock has started.

Today, April 3, at a free Fan Fest from 1 to 4 p.m. at the DCU Center, the team takes care of a first item of business: what to call itself.

There will be skating, speeches, refreshments and general hockey hooplah at the event, put on by Worcester Pro Hockey HC.  But what we are most excited about is slated for 2 p.m., when the team’s name and crest will be revealed.

This name game is serious stuff.

We’ve been the Sharks (American Hockey League, 2006-2015); we’ve been the IceCats (AHL, 1994-2005); and way back when, we’ve been the Warriors (Eastern Hockey League in 1954-55 and Atlantic Hockey League in 1955-56).

What’s next for the jerseys, pennants, posters, sports pages, flags and souvenirs?

We have no idea what they’re going to announce, but for starters we might suggest — as Indianapolis has its Fuel and Orlando has its, ahem, Solar Bears — something the city is known for: “Plowers.” You must admit, the past two winters, all anyone can talk about are Worcester’s Plowers.

It’s original, fun, doesn’t start with a “W,” and lends itself to good headlines: “Plowers Power to OT Win,” “Plowers Wow Again,” or “Plowers Snow Their Stuff.”

Or what about “Wizards”? As in, “Worcester Wizards Cast Spell Over Hapless Manchester Monarchs”? In keeping with the academic kingdom we’ve got here and history of invention, the moniker would not only stop opposing players in their skates, but be a nod to all the whizzes we’ve got here. And it starts with “W.”

“Heroes” would be a nice one and meaningful, but the Worcester Bravehearts baseball team already scored that angle, and folds in the city’s heart-of-the-commonwealth slogan as well.

Could it be the “Rocketeers” are set for launch? Sure, it looks a little Rockette-ish, but it would reference local history with Robert Goddard’s contributions as the father of modern rocket propulsion — and what do hockey players do if not rocket around the rink while we’re sipping our drinks?

OK, “Pioneers” then. That throws blanket recognition over the whole region; past, present and future. It does, however, have a serious and old-fashioned feel, putting us in mind of ladies’ bonnets and good manners, when the image we want is muscle and blades.

Like we said: “Plowers.”

No? Well, we don’t think the new team will be called the “Hills,” the “Potholes,” the “Plan E’s,” the “Lab Rats,” the “Flying Saucers,” the “Quinsigs,” the “Clocktowers,” the “Triple-Deckers” or the “Donut Shops.”

We’ll just have to see what the ECHL and team officials come up with for us. Guaranteed, the name won’t put the puck straight into the net. Whatever it is, it will be met with some hesitation, because it won’t be all the other names it could have been.

But just as certainly, Worcester will wholeheartedly adopt the club whatever they’re called. When it comes to the name we are, after all, stuck with it — stuck saying it, reading it, whooping it, and buying tickets to it for a very long time, we hope.

The news came in early February that the ECHL, formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League, had agreed to add Worcester as its 29th team. We heartily congratulate the many who made it happen. Owned by businessman Cliff Rucker, and helped into being by Mike Mudd, athletic director at Worcester State University and former Sharks chief, the city’s minor league team is expected to affiliate with an NHL team down the road.

This sport is quick, tense, graceful, brutal and physical, and best viewed live. The buzzers, whistles, crashes, grunts, clicks, whooshes, cheers and music punctuate the impressive athletic prowess on display. And there’s nothing like the faces of kids pressed to the glass, fearing a loss and rejoicing when all goes right with the world.

It was hard to see the friendly Sharks, with their toothy logo, leave for California last year. Tough to let the appealing IceCats slip to a new rink and identity in Illinois.

But, as it is said, absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Worcester has been without a team long enough.

It’s time for a big hello to hockey’s new guys — whatever their name is.

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