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AHL Sharks trade snowshoes for sunglasses

A blowout win over the rival Ducks wasn’t the only good news for the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

Roughly nine hours before the final buzzer sounded on a 6-3 Sharks victory at SAP Center, the team announced that their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, based in Worcester, Massachusetts since 2006, will be relocating to San  Jose beginning in October of this year.

The Sharks will be among five NHL teams — others include the Los Angeles Kings (Ontario), Anaheim Ducks (San Diego), Calgary Flames (Stockton) and Edmonton Oilers (Bakersfield) — moving their AHL affiliates to California, a testament to the growing interest in hockey in the state.

Said Sharks’ COO John Tortora in a press release:

“This is an exciting day for the San Jose Sharks organization and for hockey fans throughout the state of California.”

The shift should increase convenience and reduce costs for those teams, which all previously had affiliates based in the East or Midwest, to keep an eye on prospects and transition them back-and-forth between the minors and the big club.

Tortora pointed out those advantages:

“Having our AHL club playing in close proximity to our NHL club has innumerable benefits for the development for our young players and prospects. It also provides an opportunity for the Sharks organization to grow Sharks Territory and enhance our footprint into what is an already hockey-crazy market.”

Indeed, the benefits are two-fold: The Sharks will no longer have to shuttle their prospects on cross-country flights to-and-from Massachusetts, and the fans and management can monitor those prospects right in their own building.

The move would also allow for their AHL players to get a feel for playing in an NHL arena, which they would typically not get a chance to experience otherwise.

Although the Sharks looked at other sites in Northern California, they settled on their home arena, an unprecedented move. No other NHL affiliate shares a building with its minor league affiliate.

The AHL’s shift westward also ends the decade-long reign of the ECHL in California minor league hockey. The Sharks had been affiliated with the now-defunct San Francisco Bulls until the team folded in early 2014, reportedly stiffing season ticket holders of thousands of dollars.

San Jose’s minor league team, which calls itself the Worcester Sharks, will change its name in order to avoid confusion. That means the logo and jerseys will also be different. Deposits for a season-ticket waiting list start at $50.

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