Four years after the then Boston Blades lost the bulk of their talent to the NWHL’s Boston Pride very little has changed. For the fourth-consecutive season, the Blades are the CWHL’s worst team — and it’s not even close. The Blades have won just four of their last 100 regular season games and have yet to win a game this season. Which begs the question: when, if ever, are things going to change for the CWHL’s only U.S. hockey club?
On Aug. 22, 2018, the Blades relocated to Worcester and adopted a new logo to reflect their move from Boston. Back in the fall, there was a familiar, but tentative optimism. The Blades even played two close games against the Furies in their first weekend at their new home rink.
“We have a good group of girls from last year who came back,” Meaghan Spurling told Marisa Ingemi of the Boston Herald back in November. “Having new players and the old players mingle together, it’s a whole different culture and team. It takes what we had last year where we didn’t have as good of a season, but we came back and we’re getting strong.”
Now, with the 2018-19 CWHL regular season winding down, the Blades haven’t won a game in over 365 days. Ultimately, the move to Worcester did little to attract new talent to the team that won the Clarkson Cup in 2013 and 2015. For the fourth straight offseason, it’s now clear that the Blades lost more talent than they brought in.
The CWHL’s top teams and their star players routinely feast on Worcester. Last Sunday, the Blades lost their 24th-consecutive game of the 2018-19 season. The 10-0 rout at the hands of the Calgary Inferno was the 12th time this season that the Blades have allowed six or more goals in a game. They simply can’t compete with the rest of the league.
The bottom line here is that the Blades need to change more than their logo and home rink if things are going to change. Worcester needs to find a way to attract more talent, but that has proven to be a tall task with the NWHL’s Boston Pride and Connecticut Whale so close in proximity. Now that the Pride have partnered with the Boston Bruins, it won’t be any easier for the CWHL to convince local talent to choose the Blades over the Pride.
So, what’s the solution here? How does the culture and fate of the Blades change? From the outside looking in, it’s hard to imagine a solution that doesn’t involve another relocation or the Boston Pride suddenly disappearing. But that’s just one perspective. There’s a bigger picture here that only the CWHL’s governance has a full view of.
Would the league be better off if they moved the franchise elsewhere? It’s an uncomfortable question, but it’s a question that should be asked.
With so many headlines dedicated to #OneLeague, there has been precious little attention paid to the fate of the Blades by mainstream media in the past few years. It seems that most of us have come to accept the Blades’ current role as the perennial underdog. But that’s not fair to the Blades’ players or their fans. Having one team that seems to be inescapably bad is also not particularly good for the image of the league.
Hopefully, we’ll see things improve both on and off the ice for Worcester before the 2019-20 season begins. Maybe first year general manager Derek Alfama and first year head coach Paul Kennedy have already placed the team on that path. Maybe it will just take a little bit more time for Worcester to start turning things around. Maybe the CWHL governors have a box full of creative solutions to solve this problem. But, when it comes to the Blades, it’s becoming harder and harder to be optimistic.