Report: Sharks to move AHL affiliate from Worcester to San Jose, will play at SAP Center

30 Comments

Some pretty interesting news out of San Jose, from the Mercury News:

The Sharks will move their minor league Worcester franchise in Massachusetts to SAP Center for the 2015-16 season, this newspaper has learned. The team will play between 30 and 40 games in downtown San Jose, filling up currently vacant dates at the arena.

The move is an unconventional one. No other National Hockey League team shares a building with its minor league affiliate, although the Toronto Maple Leafs’ minor league team, the Marlies, plays in the same city at a different arena.

The development makes sense, given all the recent talk of overhauling the AHL.

A report from early January claimed the Anaheim Ducks were purchasing their American League affiliate in Norfolk and moving it to San Diego. According to the Virgina-Pilot newspaper, the relocation would have the team play in “a division that would include four other California cities,” one of which San Jose now appears to be.

Earlier, the Oklahoma City Barons — Edmonton’s minor-league affiliate — announced it was ceasing operations next season. The Oilers released a statement shortly after the announcement, saying “the decision to move on from Oklahoma City, although not easy, will open new opportunities for the Oilers organization and our AHL business.”

That was followed by this tweet, from TSN’s Darren Dreger:

As for other potential AHL markets in California? They reportedly include Bakersfield, Ontario, Stockton, and Fresno.

“There have been talks for a number of years about a Pacific division for the AHL,” Sharks COO John Tortora told the Merc. “The AHL and NHL are working cooperatively to find a solution. But there are still many steps to take and many issues remain unresolved.”

Speaking of unresolved issues, it’ll be interesting to see how the Sharks juggle availability at SAP. Being the home venue for an AHL team means nearly double the hockey games per season, and no other organization is doing that right now.

There’s also the “Toronto issue” of having two teams compete in the same market; the Marlies are currently a middle-of-the-road teams in terms of AHL attendance, sitting 19th among 30 teams at 4,199 per game (the league average is 5,117.)