In a significant development, the Worcester Railers have been granted full membership into the ECHL. This officially clears the way for expansion franchise to join the league for the 2017-18 season.
Leading up to Wednesday’s vote, the anticipation was that the ECHL would follow through on adding the Railers. Businessman Cliff Rucker is leading the group that has undertaken the initiative of launching the franchise, which so far has received solid support from the Worcester community.
Plans for expansion have been in the works for some time, but the ECHL votes made the team’s entry official. Ultimately, the Railers received unanimous support from the league’s board of govenors.
Now that the team’s entry is secured, the next step, according to club officials, is obtain an NHL affiliation. Though club officials are not confirming the report, the New York Islanders have been cited as as a possible fit. More from The Telegram:
The team hopes to have an NHL affiliation in place well before it can sign free agents and that could happen as soon as three weeks from now, according to Rucker. Signs point to the Railers having a tentative agreement in place with the New York Islanders, whose AHL affiliate is a relatively short drive away in Bridgeport.
“We have no comment,” Rucker said, “other than to say that the Railers are interested in doing business with people who want to do business with us and nothing has been signed yet.”
The Islanders have shown substantial interest, going as far as sending a contingent of executives from their player development department up to Worcester to talk with Railers officials and look at the DCU Center last autumn.
The Islanders are affiliated with Missouri of the ECHL, but that’s not a good geographical mix and Missouri has also gotten some St. Louis Blues prospects this year. However, the Islanders just fired head coach Jack Capuano and the franchise could be on the verge of a reorganization.
The Railers home opener has been scheduled for October 14. The team will play at the DCU Center.
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