The 2017-18 ECHL debut season of the Worcester Railers proved to be a success, as the club was greeted with solid support from the community.
The Railers made their debut at Worcester’s DCU Center last fall. At the time, the club’s arrival was anticipated in part because it was filling a void of professional hockey in the city, which had not had a team since the Worcester Sharks (AHL) relocated to San Jose following the 2014-15 season.
In their home opener last October, the Railers were greeted with a sellout crowd of 12,135 fans. That ultimately set the tone for a solid year for the Railers, one that saw them outpace the attendance numbers drawn by the Sharks during their final season in Worcester. Railers president Mike Myers and the front office performed well in a few key areas, including youth hockey group sales and corporate sales. More from The Springfield Republican:
While the Railers are a new team, there are plenty of familiar faces in the front office from the Worcester Sharks era. Myers spent nine seasons as the Sharks’ Senior Director of Business and Community Development. When he was named president, he hired several of his former co-workers to join him back in Worcester, like Vice President of Marketing and Communications Eric Lindquist and Director of Retail and Merchandise Operations David Gwozdz.
The crew knew the market well, as they already had relationships with groups in the area that have helped their immediate success. As the inaugural Railers season reaches its end, the front office has been happy with the sustained interest in the team. The organization averaged around 4,400 fans per night, which puts it right in the middle of the pack in the ECHL.
Those numbers also put the Railers ahead of where the Worcester Sharks left off in 2014-15. The Sharks averaged 3,847 fans per night in their final season, approximately 1,700 fans short of the AHL average. The Railers finished above the ECHL average in attendance. The most a Worcester-based hockey team has averaged was back in 1996-97, when the Worcester IceCats averaged 6,800 fans per night.
The Railers were No. 1 in the league in youth hockey group sales by a long shot, according to Myers. They were also No. 2 in the league corporate sales, but Myers says there’s always more to do.
Leading up to their debut last year, there were signs that the Railers and owner Cliff Rucker were making an aggressive push to boost the team’s presence in the community through initiatives like Railers Tavern, a team-branded restaurant. Their debut ECHL season ultimately showed that the fans were eager for the Railers’ first season, and should give the club momentum going into the 2018-19 season.