Tonight marks the fourth season opener for the Ontario Reign, the Kings’ ECHL affiliate.
For those who don’t follow Southern California’s premier minor league hockey franchise too closely, here’s a quick crash course to bring you up to speed.
The Reign are owned by the Kemp family, who previously headed up the Long Beach Ice Dogs. They play in a beautiful building (Citizen’s Business Bank Arena) some have called a mini-Staples Center – probably because it’s also run by AEG.
In October 2008, the Reign played their first ECHL game, against the Bakersfield Condors, the same team they’re playing tonight.
At the end of that inaugural season, the team made the playoffs – but, ultimately lost their first round match up with the Stockton Thunder in seven games. Former Kings first round draft pick Colten Teubert was with the Reign for a few games at the end of the season and for the playoffs. Current Manchester goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, was in net at the time and former Monarchs sniper Bud Holloway was among the group of forwards in Ontario.
They missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons, both of which brought mounting frustrations for the fan base and management. Part of the issue on the hockey operations side has been the fact the Kings haven’t been sending them four to five players each season, like most other ECHL teams get (team president Justin Kemp spoke openly about the issue here).
Coach Karl Taylor, who also was in charge of managing the team’s player personnel, left over the summer, taking an assistant coaching job in the AHL. The circumstances surrounding his departure are murky at best, as he’s now working in the Canucks organization – the same team Kemp was negotiating with to bring on as a second NHL affiliate (again, discussed in greater detail in his MayorsManor interview linked above).
This season, the Reign are getting two additions with LA ties.
In goal, they’ll have JF Berube. He was the Kings fourth round pick at the 2009 NHL Draft and comes in as one of the top goalies in the QMJHL league. (note: he’s known for having beautiful mask designs, check out some photos of his latest helmet)
Behind the bench, they’ve added former Kings defenseman and assistant coach Mark Hardy to help out newly-hired head coach Jason Christie.
If you want just a small sample of how excited Hardy is to be back in the game of hockey, listen to his interview here – where he not only talks about missing the game, but also shares thoughts on the development of Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Kyle Clifford.
Over the summer, the Reign completely re-worked their roster, bringing in about a dozen new players. Thus, tonight marks almost a re-launch of the franchise.
For more information on the team, click here. At the end of this article there are also several related stories linked for your reference.
ECHL hockey is always fun and it’s inexpensive. If you can, check out the game tonight (7pm start) or tomorrow (6pm). And as an added bonus, they’ll have the stars of the movie Slap Shot on hand for autographs and other activities.
MayorsManor podcast with Mark Hardy – honest, emotional answers from a man missing hockey