Opening Night weather: More Thunder than Reign

Over the weekend we ran an interview with Justin Kemp, President of the ECHL’s Ontario Reign – proud affiliate of the LA Kings. One of the questions was about the success the team has had at the gate during its first two years.

Well, their popularity continued Saturday night for the 2010-11 home opener, with an announced attendance of over 9,500 at Citizen’s Business Bank Arena. Although the fans saw an exciting back and forth game, when all was said and done, it was the visiting Stockton Thunder who were leaving happy. They prevailed 3-2 in a shootout and left town with the two points.

A full game recap is available on the Reign website (click here to view). Think of the notes below as more of The Mayor’s Mumblings…

* There was a frustrating moment for the Reign in the first period on what should have been the first goal of the game.  Jeff Corey skated in on a breakaway and fired the puck so hard it went straight through the back of the net.  It was a goal.  No doubt about it.  Yet, all the officials missed it.  No goal. Coach Karl Taylor says the ref apologized for missing the call.  Corey said he asked the ref about it also, “in a polite manner, of course - and he did acknowledge that it went in.”  Wonder if he really was, um, polite about it.

* During the first scrap of the night I was reminded of the UFC fights I was missing down in Anaheim.  They took of their helmets and gloves, then skated around the center face off circle - similar to how some fighters are trained to circle to one side in an attempt to avoid the power of the other guy’s punches.  Both guys had their left hands up near their ear and were jabbing, almost like pawing, with their right hand. Once the first punch connected, it was on. There were probably 20 punches total and it was over in less time that it took me to write this.  Good fight.  Not enough hockey fights include the dreaded body blow though.  Wonder if hockey players ever watch tapes of professional fighters to get tips and tricks.

* In two separate fights something caught my eye. The Reign player pulled the jersey over the head of one of the Thunder players.  The first time it happened, while the guy from Stockton looked like a ghost dressed for Halloween, punches continued to pound his covered head.  The NHL doesn’t allow fights to continue when a jersey is over a players head.  Wonder when – or if – the ECHL will change their rules.

* Speaking of rules, overtime provided a learning lesson for all involved.  There were two-minute penalties assigned to a player on each side as regulation ended.  So, overtime started out three-on-three.   Then, when a Thunder player took a penalty, the Reign were allowed to add a player, making it four-on-three.  What happened when the original penalties expired?  The two players came out of their respective box and joined the play, making it now a five-on-four overtime. After the game, Coach Taylor said he “thought they were going to hold those guys until a whistle” and added, “the rules get confusing in overtime.”  Perhaps, but the three-on-three sure was exciting, lots of action.  The NHL tested that format at their R&D Camp this summer and it was met with very positive reviews.  Wonder if they’ll be able to get that implemented before the start of next season.

* Frequent readers will recall the Jersey Game we’ve played the last few years in Las Vegas.  Basically, it’s a game played on the honor system via twitter.  A bunch of us try to spot all 30 NHL jerseys being worn by somebody in the crowd.  We were up over 25 at this this year’s Frozen Fury (and at a few of the Olympic games back in February too).  I decided to give it a try here after seeing a couple wearing Flyers jerseys walking through the parking lot on the way in.  My total was 11 on the night – Flyers, Kings, Capitals, Penguins, Bruins, Oilers, Ducks, Sabres, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Coyotes.  Pretty impressive considering I was actually watching the game most of the night.  Wonder how many more were actually there.

* In perhaps the awkward moment of the night, this guy walks up behind me and starts harassing me (read: teasing me) for typing on a laptop a few seconds after the Reign scored a goal.  I explain I’m taking notes on the game and he proceeds to introduce himself to me.  He’s the Mayor of Ontario, Paul Leon!  Yes, dueling mayors.  It was straight out of some weird teen comedy movie or something.  Major props for him rocking a jersey at the game though, including his name on the back.  Wonder if LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa even owns a Kings jersey.

* I’ve been to a handful of games out in Ontario over the last few years.  It’s a beautiful building and the action on the ice is usually very entertaining.  But for some reason it is by far the coldest arena I’ve ever been to anywhere in North America.  Wonder if they store meat in there on the team’s off days.

* Taking nothing away from the performance of Kellen Briggs, it is worth noting that Martin Jones started the year with the Reign and was just called up to Manchester on Friday.  Sure would have been great to see Jones, one of many top goaltending prospects in the Kings system right now.  Wonder if he’ll be back in Ontario anytime soon.

The Mayor
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RELATED ARTICLES:

Interview with Justin Kemp - Ontario Reign President

Interview with Colten Teubert – speaking about his time in Ontario

2010 ECHL All-Star Game Recap – hosted by the Reign, notes include post-game quotes
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