Why the San Diego Gulls Matter
How the San Diego Gulls will shape the Anaheim Ducks and the NHL.
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Recently, FINE magazine interviewed Dallas Eakins, the new head coach for the San Diego Gulls. While many San Diegans are excited to have hockey back in our Southern California city, many are a little confused about how the Gulls are related to the Anaheim Ducks. To help make hockey popular in San Diego again, we took the time to explain just who the Gulls are and why they matter to the Anaheim Ducks.
Who are the San Diego Gulls?
The San Diego Gulls were originally a team from the now-defunct Western Hockey League (WHL), a minor professional hockey league that ceased operations due to the expansion of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Gulls were founded in San Diego in 1966, and they closed in 1974 when the WHL shut down. Then, in 1990, the Gulls returned to San Diego, this time as a part of the International Hockey League (IHL); in 1995 the Gulls became a West Coast Hockey League (WCHL) team, until financial struggles forced the team to leave in 2006.
Why do the Gulls matter?
Currently, the San Diego Gulls are playing in the American Hockey League (AHL). This is by far the most stable league that the Gulls have ever participated in. For those who do not know, the AHL is a 30-team hockey league in North America that acts as a development track for the NHL. Each AHL team has an NHL affiliate, and because of this, the AHL teams are often more financially successful than teams in lesser known leagues.
The San Diego Gulls act as an affiliate team of the Anaheim Ducks. So what does that mean? It means that every rookie player drafted by the Ducks in the NHL starts out playing and training with the Gulls. Think of it as job training: these players are signed by the NHL and get paid by the Ducks, but they spend the first season or so of their career playing in the AHL to learn the fast-paced professional hockey style.
Previously, the Anaheim Ducks were partnered with the Admirals in Norfolk, Virginia. The team was moved to San Diego to keep it closer to the Anaheim Ducks.
Why should you care?
Unlike football, NHL drafts do not feature immediate returns; they are a long-term investment. NHL teams have to be patient with their draft choices and allow the rookie players time to develop before they can actually play in the NHL. Because of this, the AHL is crucial to national hockey. If fans want to watch future players develop, they need to follow the AHL.
Furthermore, if NHL teams need players to fill their roster, they will often pull some of their AHL players up. That means that some of the San Diego Gulls players could very well be playing in the NHL within the next few months. Some of the older players will be permanently moved from the AHL to the NHL as the playoffs draw near, and others will bounce back and forth between the two teams throughout the season. Either way, what happens in our rink in San Diego will absolutely impact the future of the Anaheim Ducks and the NHL as a whole.
In addition, AHL teams are used to hold niche NHL players. For example, Brian McGrattan is a 34-year-old right wing player signed to the Ducks. He is what is known as an enforcer; this means his playing style is very rough and brutal. McGrattan will not hesitate to use physical force to defend the Ducks players or stop any opposing teams from scoring. The Ducks will pull enforcers like McGrattan up to play for them when the Ducks face tough opposition. Teams who like to hit or check their opponents need to be stopped, and players like McGrattan are well-suited for this. On the other hand, when the Ducks play against highly-skilled teams that are not physically rough, McGrattan is not well-suited to play against them because his use of force against more demure teams may draw penalties.
Currently, 24 players are on the San Diego Gulls team, and 19 of those players are contracted with the Anaheim Ducks. That means those 19 players have the opportunity to prove themselves and play for the Ducks in the NHL throughout the next few years.
Already, San Diego Gulls goalie John Gibson played in the NHL for the Ducks against the Colorado Avalanche. The 22-year-old newcomer played for two periods and shut out the competition before the Ducks put in Anton Khudobin.
The San Diego Gulls have played 5 games and have won 4 of them.
The Gulls play Stockton next on October 30th, 2015. Complete San Diego Gulls Schedule