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Ducks to buy AHL team for San Diego
The Anaheim Ducks will purchase the Norfolk Admirals and move the team to San Diego this year
By Stefanie Loh, Staff Writer, UT-San Diego, Jan. 26, 2015

After months of speculation, the AHL Board of Governors voted Sunday to approve a new Pacific Division that will begin play in California for the 2015-16 season, the Virginian Pilot reported Monday, citing unnamed sources.

As a result, San Diego will once again have a professional hockey team.

As part of the AHL's western expansion, the Anaheim Ducks will purchase their AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals, and move the team to San Diego this fall.

An Anaheim Ducks spokesman declined comment Monday afternoon, but Ken Young, the president of the Admirals, confirmed the pending sale to numerous Virginia media outlets late last week, saying that he was forced to sell the team.

"We didn’t have any choice,” Young told Norfolk TV station WAVY. “It was either keep a team that would not have an affiliation, so we would not have dates or have to sell to Anaheim, which if the Pacific division gets voted on by the American Hockey League this weekend then what we know as the AHL team will end up going out west.”

The vote went through at the AHL's board meeting over the weekend, and despite AHL president David Andrews' claims Monday that the expansion plan has not yet been finalized, it's pretty much a done deal.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the AHL's Pacific Division will be announced at a news conference this Thursday.

There will be five teams in the new Pacific Division, which will stretch from the Ducks' San Diego affiliate all the way up the California coast to Stockton, where the Calgary Flames have chosen to relocate their Glen Falls, N.Y. team.

The Edmonton Oilers moved their Oklahoma City Barons AHL team to Bakersfield, while the Sharks will bring their Worcester, Mass. team home to San Jose's SAP Center. The L.A. Kings have relocated the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs to Ontario, right outside Los Angeles.

The Ducks' affiliate will likely play at Valley View Casino Center.

 

A PRO HOCKEY TOWN AGAIN?
New team could rekindle San Diego’s long love affair with the sport
By Chris Jenkins, Staff Writer, UT-San Diego, Jan. 19, 2015

At the time, four decades ago, official capacity at the San Diego Sports Arena was set at 13,363. That particular Saturday night, more than 14,000 tickets were sold to a hockey game, an impressive fact that the San Diego Gulls proudly shared on the public-address system.

“The fire marshal went berserk,” said Bruce Binkowski, the front-office employee who announced the attendance. “The next time we sold more than 14,000 seats, we only announced 13,363.”

The point is, there was a “next time.” The Gulls — despite playing in a much smaller city than it is today, a city that already had NFL and major league baseball teams, a sun-splashed beach town where the perfect climate screamed for people to stay outdoors and enjoy the warmth — often had folks flocking indoors to watch the best minor-league ice hockey available.

Looks, too, like there again will be a “next time” for professional hockey in San Diego.

From all indications, San Diego is part of a plan to establish a West Division of the American Hockey League, the primary provider of talent to the National Hockey League. Specifically, the first-place Anaheim Ducks are taking steps to move to San Diego their AHL franchise in that other big Navy town, the Norfolk (Va.) Admirals.

According to U-T sources, San Diego could have its AHL team in place by September. Along with the NHL’s other two California teams — the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks — the Ducks are determined to buy and set up their top minor-league team just a drive away for logistic and economic purposes.

Officials of the NHL, AHL and all teams involved basically have been sworn to secrecy on questions seeking details of the western migration of minor-league teams, but conceptually, the San Diego team ideally would be in an all-California, five-team division. The other cities noted as possible locales are Ontario, Bakersfield, Fresno and Stockton.

“Absolutely, it would be good for everybody, very much needed,” said Don Waddell, president of the company that owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. “If this works out, it’s going to make things a lot better for NHL teams and a lot better for the players, and I think it would be good for hockey.

“I already know from my own experience what a solid fan base there is for hockey in San Diego. I was surprised by how strong it was when I got there.”

Waddell was head coach of the San Diego Gulls who reached the 1991 playoffs of the International Hockey League, then one of the two top minor leagues in North American hockey, but long since gone defunct. The AHL is now a veritable super-league just one level below the NHL, consisting of 30 teams split into six divisions.

Even as the eighth-largest city in the U.S. and second-largest in California, San Diego hasn’t had the wherewithal to land an NHL team. Certainly, the AHL would be the closest thing to it, literally and figuratively.

“You’d be getting a lot more young players with higher potential in a development league,” said Waddell, who frequently shuttles between the Canes’ headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., and their AHL team in Charlotte. “When I was in San Diego, we went for experience, older players. But I must see 100 AHL games a year and I see a skill level that’s higher, players who are faster.

“Every top player starts off in the American League. When you go to the old Sports Arena — is it still called the Sports Arena? — you’ll see players playing there one night and playing in the National Hockey League the next night.”

Actually, it’s called Valley View Casino Center, and it’s rapidly approaching its 50th year in the Midway area. The facility already has undergone the assessment stage as a prospective home of an AHL club, and according to one pro-hockey source, it’s been deemed game-ready.

For his part, Valley View Casino Center general manager Ernie Hahn would not confirm any of the above. Though he’s known to be the local ramrod for an AHL move to San Diego, Hahn declined to discuss the subject, but did respond when asked about the sport’s place in San Diego history.

“I just think there’s been a huge void in this town without professional hockey,” said Hahn. “People know what kind of passion we have for the game. When we did have the Gulls here, there were many nights that were just … electric.”

The Sports Arena’s debut event on Nov. 17, 1966, was a Gulls win over the Seattle Totems. Players didn’t wear helmets. Instead of plexiglass, a barrier of wire mesh ringed the top of the boards for the protection of fans from pucks and players alike.

The Gulls were in the Western Hockey League, filling a void of their own, since the National Hockey League still consisted of just a half-dozen teams and none of the “Original Six” were west of Chicago.

While expansion assigned NHL teams to Los Angeles and Oakland in 1967, the WHL remained the best hockey to be found everywhere else in the Pacific and Mountain time zones.

History was in the making in San Diego, too, in the person of Willie O’Ree. He was San Diego’s speed demon, a two-time scoring champion of the WHL, and a huge crowd favorite.

“We averaged around 7,500 in attendance back then, and for some games, it’d be packed with 13,000 people who truly loved hockey,” said O’Ree, who has lived in San Diego since his playing days. “You could feel the excitement when you got the puck on your stick. It made you want to do something special.”

He did. O’Ree, a black Canadian, went on to break the NHL’s color barrier with the Boston Bruins.

“That’s why the possibility of hockey coming back means a lot to me personally, because I have those memories of the heyday of hockey in San Diego, watching players like Willie O’Ree and Jack McCartan,” said Binkowski, the latter a reference to the Gulls goaltender who was a star of the U.S.’s gold-medal team at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley. “If you were there, Saturday nights in January were really, really something.”

Binkowski, now the longtime director of the San Diego Bowl Game Association, since has announced games for the San Diego Whalers of the World Hockey Association and witnessed the many incarnations of the Gulls over 30 years. Over an eight-year span, the Gulls won eight Taylor Cups as West Coast Hockey League champions.

But then hockey faded in quality and incongruity — honestly, the San Diego Gulls in the East Coast Hockey League? — disappearing altogether in 2006. Even without pro hockey around for motivation, though, the game took hold at the grass-roots level in San Diego County.

Local rinks and youth hockey began producing players who, while generally having to play as teens in L.A. and move to colder climes to progress via the juniors ranks, have made it to the big time.

Chad Ruhwedel of San Diego is a young defenseman bouncing between the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. Scripps Ranch product Thatcher Demko, a Boston College goalie who has started for Team USA in world-championship tournaments, was a second-round pick by the Vancouver Canucks last spring.

“It’s a smart move by the Ducks for their own reasons, but I think this could create an even greater explosion in youth hockey here,” said Dan Ellison, who grew up watching the Gulls, spent 30 years with the San Diego Police Department and presently is USA Hockey’s chief of referees for the state of California. “I do think they’ll have to win some of San Diego back — just because of the way teams came and went and came and went here — but the level of hockey they’d bring would be at a much higher level than was here before.

“We’ve been hearing about pro hockey coming back for 10 years. This is getting a lot of people excited. There’s a buzz.”

Alert the fire marshal. 


San Diego Sports Arena Link

REMEMBER WHEN ....

The third San Diego Gulls team was founded in 1995 immediately upon departure of the IHL team of the same name. The new Gulls were a part of the West Coast Hockey League. The Gulls played at the San Diego Sports Arena.

The Gulls won five of the league's eight championships known as the Taylor Cup. On December 11, 2002, Danielle Dube became the third female goaltender to start in goal for a professional men’s team. Dube was the goalie for the San Diego Gulls in a 4-1 loss against the Long Beach Ice Dogs.  In 2003, the WCHL became the Pacific Division of the ECHL, formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League. In 2004, the Gulls became the ECHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. As of June 29, 2006, the Gulls folded and released their players as free agents in 2006 following years of unprofitable seasons.

Throughout their WCHL stint and through their first year of ECHL play, the Gulls were coached by St. Cloud State University (Minnesota) alumnus Steve Martinson. Martinson left the Gulls and went on to coach the Rockford IceHogs of the UHL. Martin St. Amour, who was a star for the Gulls in their WCHL years replaced Martinson as head coach prior to the 2004–05 season. St. Amour stepped down in the middle of the 2005–06 season and was replaced by former Gulls players Jamie Black and B.J. MacPherson as co-coaches. The final starting goalie was Kevin Lentz. He went 20-1-1 in the final stretch of the regular season but retired due to a knee injury.

Season

League

Championship(s)

1995–96

WCHL

Taylor Cup - Playoff Champion, Founders Cup - Regular Season Champion

1996–97

WCHL

Taylor Cup - Playoff Champion, Founders Cup - Regular Season Champion

1997–98

WCHL

Taylor Cup - Playoff Champion, Founders Cup - Regular Season Champion

2000–01

WCHL

Taylor Cup - Playoff Champion, Founders Cup - Regular Season Champion

2002–03

WCHL

Taylor Cup - Playoff Champion

2003–04

ECHL

Brabham Cup - Regular Season Champion

Remember these guys? ....

Patrick Couture
Trevor Koenig
Steve Martinson
Sergejs Naumovs
Martin St. Amour
Stephan St. Amour
Mark Woolf

How about? ....

 

 

Many people know Willie O’Ree as the first black NHL player but did you know he was a very accomplished minor league forward? For those of us who grew up in San Diego with hockey in our blood, we were lucky to have O’Ree as our most popular player when the San Diego Gulls played in the Western Hockey League in the late sixties and into the mid-seventies.

O’Ree was one of the top scorers for the Gulls throughout his career, and in his final WHL season he scored 30 goals in 73 games. Five years later, O’Ree came out of retirement to play for the San Diego Hawks of the Pacific Coast League and scored 21 goals in 53 games – at the tender young age of 43. I had the privilege of watching many of O’Ree’s game that final season and even at his advanced age he was one of the PHL’s better players before the league folded in 1979.

When the San Diego Gulls were revived in the International Hockey League in 1990, and again in the West Coast Hockey League in 1996, both teams thought enough of O’Ree and his accomplishments to retire his #20. Even though we no longer have minor league hockey, Willie O’Ree will always be known around here as Mr. Gull and is as beloved in our community as Tony Gwynn.

Today O’Ree lives in the La Mesa area and is currently the director of diversity programs for the NHL.

 

 

 

How about? ....

                 

WHO COULD EVER FORGET THIS? ....

  

Captain B.J. McPherson B.J.McPHERSON

I was a season ticket holder and hockey filled the void between football and baseball and added a level of passion and excitement not instilled by any of the other sports. Check out the current Minor League WSHL Gulls who play at the Iceoplex in Escondido.   Web Site at  http://www.sandiegogullshockey.com/home/


Remember the Gulls Girls?

Blind RefThe GULLS can win IN SPITE OF the WCHL Referees!!!


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TOP TEN SIGNS THE OTHER TEAM HAS A BAD GOALIE:
10.  Keeps telling the Goal Judge to "Get Ready!".
9.  Mask is painted like Malibu Barbie.
8.  On the net, with his squeeze bottle is a box of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
7.  Wearing Magooesque glasses over his mask.
6.  You find him in a fetal position in the corner of the net.
5.  Ice level microphone keeps picking up sounds of him praying.
4.  He's wearing a virtual reality mask.
3.  Keeps using his big stick to kill bugs on the ice.
2.  Technique in stopping breakaways: Fakes seizures.
1. Tries not to get hit by the puck!!!

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