This truly has been a monumental week for hockey news in Southern California. Along with the long-awaited word of the Ontario Reign becoming an AHL franchise next season, many questions have emerged. In the first of our two-part interview with Luc Robitaille, President of Business Operations for the Los Angeles Kings, he will discuss the management structure and changes taking place. Later today, we will post a far more in-depth interview with Robitaille that offered several interesting bits of additional information and touches on other teams likely to be joining the AHL’s Pacific Division in coming years.
“For starters, the team is still going to be called the Ontario Reign,” Robitaille told MayorsManor. “There have been so many great fans there and they’ve really supported the Reign. Now, the players are going to be bigger and faster. It’s a lot closer to the NHL, which will be the main difference. Justin Kemp and his team have done a tremendous job. They’ve really done a great job there. What our Ontario fans should expect moving forward [is the style of hockey played there] to be a lot closer to the NHL. However, we have a lot of respect for what he’s done and accomplished. He already has a great staff there, so we don’t want to change much of what he’s been doing because we know people going to those games have been enjoying them. If anything, the hockey is going to change, but we want to keep most of the stuff that Justin’s been doing because it’s been great.”
Kemp, who served as Reign team President since their launch in 2008, will not be part of the team’s future, as they transition to being an AHL team for next season.
“No, he’s not staying on board,” Robitaille continued. “For us structurally, it makes sense. We have to keep with the [AHL] staff that we’ve been working with. Number one, it’s about development and we have to stick with what we have going on. Darren Abbott, who was running our Manchester team, has a great relationship with Dean [Lombardi], Rob [Blake], myself and Kelly Cheeseman. We just want to make sure that nothing changed on that end.”
Although his tenure with the Reign will be coming to a close, Kemp remains optimistic about what these changes mean for the Reign, their fans, and hockey in general.
“I am extremely excited to see AHL hockey come to Ontario,” said the team’s outgoing President. “The city of Ontario has experienced tremendous growth in recent years and with that comes expectations of a higher level of professional sports, especially when it comes to hockey. Fans will now have the ability to watch a player in Ontario one night with the Reign and in Los Angeles with the Kings the following evening. Over the past several seasons, hockey has become an important part of the sports landscape in the Inland Empire, and the Reign will continue to be the best family sports entertainment value in the region.”
Current Monarchs President Darren Abbott will begin his role as President of the Reign, effective immediately.
“I am thrilled to be a part of this truly historic shift that is taking place,” Abbott said. “I look forward to the opportunity to get to know the Reign fans, as their loyalty and enthusiasm have helped create one of the most passionate environments in all of minor league hockey. They are proof that hockey is alive and thriving in southern California, and I am excited for the new challenges that await this organization as it enters the next frontier in the AHL.”
Many more details will continue to emerge in the coming days and weeks. As we first reported, the Reign will hold a press conference on Feb. 11 to unveil their new jersey.
“From the business end, we believe both organizations – the Ontario Reign and the LA Kings – will work very well together to create a great, fan-friendly experience that fans, both new to the club and those who have proudly supported the club over the years, will enjoy immensely,” Robitaille stated. “As our motto says – We Are All Kings – and this is the perfect example of that and a true win-win for everyone involved.”
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