San Diego sports fans hit the rink to root for the newest ice hockey franchise

BY Christina Orlovsky Page

Football? Who needs it? San Diego sports fans have a fun fall and winter athletic alternative, thanks to the San Diego Gulls, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, set to begin their third season this month. Bringing the fast-paced energy and excitement you can only get from ice hockey to the Valley View Casino Center, the Gulls offer affordable fun for the whole family and a competitive—and winning—spirit the San Diego sports scene so desperately deserves.

From hockey clinics to school visits, fans can expect to see players out and about in the San Diego community.
From hockey clinics to school visits, fans can expect to see players out and about in the San Diego community.

The fifth hockey team in local history to use the Gulls name, the current team—which started playing in San Diego in the 2015–2016 season as part of a newly launched AHL Pacific Division—plays under the leadership of head coach Dallas Eakins.

A former National Hockey League (NHL) defenseman and one-time coach of the Edmonton Oilers, Eakins possesses an infectious passion for the game, a dedication to the development of his players and a commitment to bringing the very best hockey to the San Diego community.

“The first thing I’m excited about this year is our team making a bigger footprint in and around the San Diego area,” says Eakins. “Our first two years have concentrated on the on-ice product—the development of the players, getting a new practice facility—and in the meantime, we’ve been diligent about connecting with the fans. We’re so lucky to be in a community like San Diego where we’ve been greeted with excitement and a lot of love. Whether they know it or not, the fans have a direct [impact on] our players’ development, and we are extremely blessed to have their support. In the end, our goal is to win and develop players to play in the NHL. So far, I feel like we’ve done a good job. But for me, the goal isn’t just to be good, it’s to be the best.”

The support of the fans, the dedication of a coach committed to winning and the drive of young players looking to be called up to the big leagues is what

makes a night at a Gulls game electrifying. Not sure what to expect? According to Matt Savant, President of Business Operations, “You can expect to be completely engaged from start to finish.  From the minute you get to your seat at a hockey game, there’s so much going on. It’s a full-contact sport, it’s fast and when a goal is scored, the whole crowd is on its feet, singing along. It’s a great communal feeling and exciting and fun to be part of the community.”

Eakins adds, “Before you know it, you’re hooked. Hockey is so much different than other sports. These guys are out there skating on tiny blades, chasing a puck and doing it together with such precision. Games are electric—especially Friday and Saturday nights. I encourage anyone to come enjoy the history of the arena and the experience of being part of a supportive, vibrant crowd and see how you leave. I guarantee you’ll leave with a smile on your face wanting to come back again.”

Head to Valley View Casino Center on October 13 as the Gulls take on the Texas Stars in their season home opener. Check out the full season schedule at sandiegogulls.com.