Oh how the time flies.
The end of the year is already here. The past year has been a very exciting time for Worcester Hockey fans and for the City of Worcester. Let’s take a look at where Worcester Hockey stands after incredible year of 2016.
December 17, 2015 – Application Submitted
One year ago, the Worcester Civic Center Commission unanimously threw their support for Cliff Rucker’s application for the newest ECHL franchise. You could even say that’s the very beginning of a very good change for the City of Worcester.
In a release posted by MassLive, City Manager Ed Augustus said:
“Worcester is a hockey city. Professional hockey that is both affordable and accessible improves the quality of life for residents and visitors alike while also important to the vitality of downtown, driving restaurant business, hotel rooms and even creating jobs.”
In just one year, that statement could not be more true. Little did we know that in just a few months, Rucker would be bringing us a Hockey team, a new restaurant, twin hockey rinks, some new retail space being renovated downtown and plenty more to come.
And just days after the Civic Center Comission announced their support, Rucker officially submitted the application and was unanimously approved by the ECHL Board of Governors in February.
“I’m doing this to win,” he said. “I want to win the Kelly Cup. I’m doing this to bring a championship minor league hockey team to Worcester. This is not R&D. This is not a farm team. I want to win.”
February 8, 2016 – Worcester’s ECHL Franchise becomes Official
On February 8, 2016 it was announced that Cliff Rucker’s application was unanimously approved by the league and Worcester’s newest Hockey team would begin playing for the 2017-18 season. Cliff Rucker said after the announcement: “Today is a combination of being grateful, being relieved, and being excited.”
“We are pleased to welcome Worcester to the ECHL,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. “Cliff Rucker made a very impressive presentation to our Board of Governors. He laid out a strong business plan that has broad-based community support and is prepared to take the proper lead time to execute a successful introduction.”
Coming with the announcement, Toby O’Brien was named President and General Manager of Worcester Pro Hockey, LLC. O’Brien brought 20 years of experience to the Railers, having spent 10 years with the ECHL Johnstown Chiefs as a coach, general manager and team president.
Here's Worcester News Tonight's coverage of the press conference earlier today. https://t.co/FnsXNmyNDK
— Woo Hockey (@SaveWooHockey) February 9, 2016
Over the next few months, the team began searching for a new name which included the Worcester Blast and Worcester Whitehawks, before it was finally decided the team name would be the Worcester Railers HC.
March 1, 2016 – Myzie Returns
Mike Myers joined the Worcester Pro Hockey as Director of Community Development on March 1, 2016. A familiar face to Worcester Hockey fans, Myers was the Senior Director of Business and Community Development for the Worcester Sharks and was a goalie for Assumption College.
April 3, 2016 – Name and Logo Unveiling
At Worcester Pro Hockey Fan Fest on April 3, the team announced the team name and the team logo. The logo features a steam train and seven mountains (representing Worcester’s seven hills).
— WorcesterRailersHC (@RailersHC) April 3, 2016
April 10, 2016 – Rucker Purchases “Railers Tavern”
On April 10, 2016, it was announced that Railers owner Cliff Rucker had bought the former BarFX building behind the DCU Center. The Railers Tavern will be a place for will be a spot for all those new Worcester Railers fans to flock postgame. The Tavern will have merchandise and game used memorabilia from past Worcester Sports teams and local sports teams. It is expected to open between the summer and fall of 2017.
— WorcesterRailersHC (@RailersHC) October 18, 2016
May 20, 2016 – Twin Rink Groundbreaking in Worcester’s Canal District
The groundbreaking ceremony for Worcester’s twin rinks – named the “Worcester Sports Center” took place on May 20 in Worcester’s canal district. The Worcester Sports Center will be a 100,000-square foot twin sheet ice facility for youth, high school and college athletes, as well as having a strength & conditioning center, a physical therapy center, a sports pro shop and more.
“When [the Worcester Sharks] left, I was determined to fill that void,” Rucker said, referring to the affordable entertainment provided by the city’s old AHL team. “This project is an extension of that concept of access.”
To date, the tenants for the Worcester Sports Center will be theWorcester Railers HC, Becker College, Worcester State University, Worcester Academy, Worcester Jr. Sharks, and Jr. Crusaders will use the Rinks starting in their 2017-18 seasons.
The new facility is expected to open in August 2017.
— WorcesterRailersHC (@RailersHC) April 16, 2016
May 20, 2016 – O’Brien Departs For Florida; Myers named President
On May 20, 2016 it was announced that President and GM Toby O’Brien would be leaving the Worcester Railers to take a position for an unnamed NHL team.
Mike Myers was named President of the Railers after O’Brien’s departure.
“I am excited to announce that Mike Myers has been promoted to President of the Worcester Railers HC. Mike has been an integral component of the Railers from inception and this promotion is a logical progression,” said team owner Cliff Rucker. “Mike is well known and well respected in the city of Worcester, having played collegiate hockey here, worked his entire career in professional hockey here, and raised a family in the city. I know our fans and the community will join me in congratulating Mike and supporting him in this new role.”
It was later announced that Toby O’Brien would be taking the position of co-director of amateur scouting for the Florida Panthers.
August 8, 2016 – Mascot Unveiling
The Worcester Railers unveiled their mascot at the Worcester Bravehearts game on August 8, and was named “Trax” after the holding a naming contest.
“I’m a local pup, bred and born in Worcester Mass. I grew up in the Railyards behind Union Station, watching the trains chug along. During the cold winter months, I would skate through Elm Park, around the Oval, and sneak into the DCU Center to cheer on the hockey teams. When the Railers came into town, it was only fitting that they would ask a loyal, hockey loving railyard dog like me to be their mascot.”
— WorcesterRailersHC (@RailersHC) August 8, 2016
September 6, 2016 – Eric Lindquist Returns
Another staple of the former Worcester Sharks organization returning to Worcester was Broadcaster Eric Lindquist. Lindquist joins the Worcester Railers after spending the previous nine seasons with the San Jose Sharks organization in the American Hockey League which included eight seasons with the Worcester Sharks.
“I am really excited about the opportunity to come back to Worcester and help the Railers get on track for 2017,” said Lindquist. “Worcester is an awesome hockey city with great fans. I am eager to work for Cliff Rucker and Mike Myers and I cannot wait for the puck to drop next October at the DCU Center.”
The plan is to have Lindquist return to the broadcasts for the Worcester Railers when the puck drops next year.
— WorcesterRailersHC (@RailersHC) September 7, 2016
September 12, 2016 – Jamie Russell Named Coach and GM
On September 12, 2016, the Worcester Railers HC named Jamie Russell as the coach and general manager for the team. Russell joins the Railers after coaching Michigan Tech University for more than a decade. In the past two seasons (2014-16), Russell was the head coach and director of hockey operations and compiled a record of 69-66-12. Prior to that, Russell was the assistant coach at Providence College and helped the team reach their first NCAA tournament in 13 seasons in 2014.
“After an extensive search we are pleased to have someone with Jamie’s background and unique skill set on board for our inaugural season in the ECHL,” said Mike Myers. “I am confident that Jamie will put a winning product on the ice year one and look forward to him getting entrenched in the central Massachusetts community.”
— Woo Hockey (@SaveWooHockey) September 12, 2016
October 14, 2016 – Skate to the Date Event
The Worcester Railers HC held their “Skate to the Date” event featuring a State of the Union address with Railers Front Office Staff and a Q&A session with Railers’ head coach and general manager Jamie Russell.
If you missed it, you can find our coverage of the event here.
November 11, 2016 – 1000 Memberships
On November 11, 2016, the Worcester Railers reached 1000 memberships. The first 1,000 memberships are part of the exclusive Founders Circle which includes exclusive benefits like a personalized marker on each of their seats and their name on a memorialized Founders Circle wall at the DCU Center. With the team needing to reach a goal of 1,500 season tickets before the beginning of the 2017-18 season, they are in a good position to meet that goal with less than a year to go.
— WorcesterRailersHC (@RailersHC) November 11, 2016
December 17, 2016
Just last week, it was announced that Cliff Rucker was buying another property that will be renovated for mixed office and retail space on Main Street. The office building of law firm Bowditch & Dewey sold last Wednesday for $2.8 million. The purchase includes an eight-year lease by the law firm with stipulations for extensions. Also included in the deal are a substantial renovation and modernization of its offices, according to Bowditch & Dewey.
A very exciting time for Worcester is ahead of us. 2016 was a huge year for Worcester Hockey fans and has set the stage for 2017 to be even bigger. With just 42 weeks to go, we have a lot to look forward to when the puck drops on October 14, 2017.