San Diego Gulls: did you know?

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The American Hockey League, in which the new San Diego Gulls are members, features players who are on loan from the NHL as well as highly touted NHL draft picks.

The Gulls will play a 66-game schedule this season and will be members of the AHL’s seven-team Pacific Division alongside four other California teams and two teams based in Texas.

The American Hockey League, in which the new San Diego Gulls are members, features players who are on loan from the NHL as well as highly touted NHL draft picks.

The Gulls will play a 66-game schedule this season and will be members of the AHL’s seven-team Pacific Division alongside four other California teams and two teams based in Texas.

The other California franchises include the Ontario Reign (L.A. Kings), Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers), San Jose Barracuda (San Jose Sharks) and Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames). The idea of creating a western pod in the AHL was for the parent western NHL teams to have easier access to their development players, both for call-ups as well as day-to-day monitoring.

San Diego is just a two-hour drive from Anaheim.

Besides the new team, fans should find the interior of the Gulls’ new home sporting quite a few upgrades as well, such as NHL- quality glass and dasher boards, a massive new scoreboard, refurbished locker rooms and a new compressor system to produce a better ice surface.

Gulls (version 3.0)

What should fans expect from the new AHL team? New head coach Dallas Eakins said the focus would be on “developing players for the parent club in a winning environment.”

“In the AHL, there’s no blueprint for how many players go up and down,” explained Eakins, who previously coached with Edmonton in the NHL and led the Toronto Marlies to the 2012 AHL Calder Cup Final. “It depends on the need of the parent club. Looking at our possible roster, I think we’ll be able to supply players when they are needed. I think we can be a winning team as well as developing players at the same time. We believe we will have a number of players in San Diego who could start for other NHL teams.”

Along those lines, Eakins said "discipline and commitment” are critical.

 “You don’t go from an intern to a CEO overnight,” Eakins explained. “There is a process to everything. We want our players to reach their potential. But we also want them to feel the sense of belonging.”

Eakins emphasized the responsibility his players have to the community.

“We want to be embedded in this community 365 days a year,” Eakins pledged. “Our players will be prodded and pushed to get out in the community. It’s extremely important to give back to the community. We’ve been given so much on our way up, we want to give back.”

Prior to Monday’s exhibition game at the Honda Center in Anaheim against Ontario, the Gulls added five players to their training camp roster to increase the number of players in camp to 27 – 15 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.

The Gulls are a diverse mix – 10 Americans, 14 Canadians and three Europeans.

Center Kyle MacKinnon, who signed as a free agent on July 8, is the team’s Golden State boy, hailing from Walnut in Los Angeles County. He will turn 28 on Oct. 28 and is one of the Gulls’ veteran players. He enters this season having tallied 46 goals and 118 points in 260 regular season AHL games. He had 27 points in 47 games last season for the St. John’s IceCaps.

Eakins said veteran players have a defined role on the team. “I’d like them to have the chance to make the NHL,” Eakins said. “I also want them to feel it’s their duty to help the younger players. They’ll be challenged to help our younger players. It’s critical to the success of our organization.”

Overall, there are 13 players on the Gulls’ roster from last year’s Norfolk Admirals franchise that was purchased by the Ducks and moved west.

General Manager Bob Ferguson said to expect player movement throughout the season between the Gulls and the Ducks and also between the Gulls and their ECHL affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies.

“It’s going to be something positive for everyone,” Ferguson explained. “About 80 percent of the players in the NHL previously played in the AHL.”

The Gulls defeated the Reign, 3-2, in a shootout in the teams’ first exhibition game last Friday at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario. It looks to be the start of a heated rivalry between the clubs, mimicking the Ducks-Kings’ NHL rivalry.

The Gulls got goals from Bryan Moore (Indian Trail, N.C.) and Harry Zolnierczyk (Toronto, Canada) while Gulls netminder Matt Hackett (London, Ontario, Canada) made 30 stops on 32 shots.  The teams played through a five-minute three-on-three overtime period before Ondrej Kase (Kadan, Czech Republic) scored the lone goal in the shootout to give the Gulls their first-ever victory, preseason or otherwise.

Is this the beginning of another love affair for hockey fans in the city? The puck is about to drop.