North Shore businessman Cliff Rucker and arena-management firm SMG signed the lease last month. Worcester, the second-largest market in New England, went without hockey this season after the AHL’s Worcester Sharks shifted to San Jose as part of a five-team realignment that saw the teams move closer to their West Coast affiliates. After that shift, ECHL officials say they would work for 30 teams for the future, the addition of a Worcester team could be part of that expansion. It doesn’t sound like Rucker is planning on a team next season; rather, he’s looking to 2017-2018:
“An entrepreneur always assumes a positive outcome,” said Rucker, “and assuming a positive outcome at the meeting, I’ll make a public announcement within three to four weeks after that.
“If I wanted to drop a puck for the 2016-17 season, that would give me three or four months to hire staff and start to generate revenue. I made a determination, along with the ECHL —their best practices say you need 12 months from the time of approval until you drop a puck, and while they don’t mandate it, if I’m trying to get approval and I’m going against their best practices, that’s probably not a great idea.
“Best practices aside, I didn’t want to show up here and immediately try to start selling tickets, start selling sponsorships. I don’t want to just do this, I want to do it right. I’m in it for the long haul. So I felt I’m going to need about a year to staff up, and integrate into the community.”
So far the only expansion talk we’ve heard about is Worcester. We’re not likely to see a new team in Las Vegas to replace the Wranglers.