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Worcester Sharks coming this fall

The American Hockey League Board of Governors on Monday approved the relocation of the San Jose Sharks’ AHL franchise from Cleveland to Worcester, Mass., beginning with the 2006-07 season.

Sharks Minor Holdings president Michael Lehr and San Jose Sharks president and CEO Greg Jamison made the announcement that the team has reached an agreement with the DCU Center to bring the Worcester Sharks to town next fall.

"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, the 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 current 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 President and CEO David 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, Mayor and City Council, SMG, the San Jose Sharks organization, and especially the passionate hockey fans in Worcester."

The facility, which opened in 1982 and was renamed the DCU Center in October 2004 in a naming rights partnership with Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU), will be outfitted with a curtaining system to create an more exciting and intimate venue with a 6,500 seat capacity for hockey. In addition, the City of Worcester has committed to ongoing improvements to enhance the hockey experience.

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 within the system (nearly 70%). Current Russian Olympic and NHL All-Star netminder Evgeni Nabokov spent three seasons developing with the Sharks 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 player 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, R.I.; Harvard), Josh Hennessy (Brockton, Mass.), Josh Prudden (Andover, Mass.; U. of New Hampshire), Patrick Rissmiller (Belmont, Mass.; Holy Cross) and Garrett Stafford (U. of New Hampshire) were raised or played collegiately in the area.

Individuals who pledge for season tickets will have first priority for seat selection. The pledge drive will continue through the end of the month. Individuals and businesses are encouraged to pledge at www.worcesterhockey.com or by calling 508-929-0359 as soon as possible to ensure the best availability.