“Gulls Hockey—Strange Season & Good Season”
It’s been a very good season for the AHL-San Diego Gulls, and now they start the postseason, with a best of 3-series in Bakersfield.
It’s been a numbing season too. No home games. No fans. No arena. They played the entire season in Irivine at the Anaheim Ducks training facility, like a number of other teams have.
It’s been 5-solid seasons of AHL hockey for the San Diego franchise. A good working agreement, some quality coaching with Dallas Eakins first,and now Kevin Dineen.
Leadership from President Matt Savant and veteran minor league exec Bob Ferguson. They went (24-17-1) in a season riddled by Covid scares and continued roster callups by the NHL-Ducks. And yet look at where they are.
A Gulls franchise with a 5-year record of (210-131) and a flagship franchise in the American Hockey League, where they averaged over 8800 fans a game for two seasons, then a 9000 plus average before covid struck
Hockey is big in San Diego because the community is a melting pot of people who have come here from somewhere else. Walk the concourse before a Gulls home game at the Sports Arena, you will see lots of Gulls jerseys, but you will see fans wearing Leafs-Red Wings-Montreal-Rangers-Blackhawks-Kings-Ducks jerseys and more.
But no one has ever experienced this. Longtime GM-Bob Ferguson, who has worked for the Ducks as their AHL point man in Portland-Syracuse-Norfolk and now in San Diego, has spent his entire life in hockey, but not this way.
He, coach Kevin Dineen, and young veteran Chase DeLeo, opened up on the eve of the playoff series.
Comments from longtime GM-Bob Ferguson on the state of Gulls hockey:
..Nobody ever been thru something like this…no words can describe it.
..Credit everyone involved with putting together the protocols.
..Hockey players-creature of habit-changes they have had to make changes.
..I had alot of doubts when we got started we could make it thru the year.
..Hockey has been very good dealing with the protocols
..None of our players tested positive
..Ducks large expense to put protocols in place
..Players challenge-no one can enjoy playing in Southern California
..Players are entertainers-play in empty arenas-no one can see..strange
..Most of guys grown up playing infront 17,000 in NHL or 10,000 in AHL
..Still had great seasons….we had some great games here-no one saw them
..Only normalcy to lives was in the rink
..Ducks gave us positive experience-be in training facility all the time
..Players under watchful eye of all Ducks execs-keep an eye on guys
..Guys practice with Ducks in morning..play for us at night in AHL
..Minor league players-learn be professional everyday around Ducks
..Early part of covid-very scary players test positive
..Our players tested everyday since January 14th
..We got deeper into it…we got confident players followed protocol
..You worry..there is a trust factor with players now
..Players great example with Marlins-Cardinals..can happen to anyone
..Do not want to shut an organization down by getting outbreak
..All players are vaccinations..just got done.
..Kevin Dineen-glad we all test with Ducks as a group-made it easier
..Being in same building to get tests done helped great deal
..Roster been revolving door..but in good way
..Ducks very helpful getting players into San Diego uniform.
..Trevor Zegras-alot of people will enjoy watching him for years
..Phenomenal skill level-sees the ice so well-finds open sticks
..Got some Paul Kariya in him…great skater
..Zegras-has had success right at the start of career
..Zegras-confident of ability-not overwhelmed..same effort each night
..if I was a winger-I’d want to be on his line
..Jamie Drysdale-absolute talent..year younger that Zegras
..Established himself as 18-year old in AHL
..Did same thing with Ducks-how poised he is
..Stage not too big for him…negate forecheck-good decisions-skill-speed
..Not overwhelmed by big forwards
..Glad he is on our side
..Luka Dostal…been over in Europe for a couple of years as young goalie
..Poise-ability..matured beyond young age
..Judge goalie how many games he wins for your team when he is best player
..He has stolen a bunch of wins for us-when guys infront not play well
..Goalies usually last players to develop at AHL level
..Ducks signs veteran core players-character leaders-helped Gulls
..Sam Carrick leadership..Andrew Agozzino..Vin Letierri-made an impact
…Kids like Jacob Perrault-Benoit Groulx helped alot
..Alex Limoges helped us alot after college season
..Dallas Eakins…don’t win on regular basis it is so hard in NHL
..Give him credit for making young players better
..Win-loss record..nobody likes that…but alot of positives coming..
..Making transition with good progress with good kids coming along.
Coach Kevin Dineen:
..Playoffs have intense value to young players-learn how to cope
..We have 29-players in our room after Ducks sent players in
..We consider ourselves fortunate-we get to go to the rink
..Our player develop daily
..Proud of Ducks staff for the protocols they put in place
..These players shown great discipline to follow protocols
..Our players have gotten great insight how NHL works being at facility
..Trevor Zegras-Jamie Drysdale..there’s ton of talent around..only few have talent like theirs
..No matter where they play-they add level of excitement-bring passion to rink
..Luka Dostal..has established himself quickly in North America
..We know how good he was in Europe-he has continued to excel
Chase DeLeo-Gulls veteran forward:
..We wish we had normalcy-we miss the fans-they are our buddies.
..We were off for 11-months from hockey..no one should complain
..We did not know if we could complete the season
..It is refreshing to come to the rink
..Alot of people lost jobs-work..we know how hard it is has been on families
..We have a new perspective-how lucky we are to play
..So much respect for the front line people who sacrificed
..No Covid outbreaks…it’s our job to follow protocols
..It is a 24-7 job-we took it upon ourselves to stay out of trouble
..We made sacrifices-no complaints on masking..have Q-tip up your nose
..Kevin Dineen is blue collar guy..knows what it takes.
So they drop the puck in Bakersfield on Friday for three straight on the road..the road to finishing a very hard season. Reward, a Pacific Division championship and more importantly impressing Ducks officials who will be in the press box every game, at the most important time of the year.