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Quotes from Murray, Schulman on AHL Franchise in San Diego

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

SAN JOSE – Earlier today, American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced that the league’s Board of Governors has formally and unanimously approved the steps necessary to create a Pacific Division within the AHL beginning with the 2015-16 season. Among those steps involved the Ducks, who will purchase the Norfolk Admirals AHL franchise and will relocate it from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego, Calif.

Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray and Chief Executive Officer Michael Schulman were on hand to help ring in this historic day in California hockey history.

Below are their quotes.

Opening remarks
To use a favorite word of our recently retired Teemu Selanne, this is an unbelievable day for hockey in California, for the Anaheim Ducks organization and the city of San Diego. Years ago, I can remember when the Samuelis bought the team in 2005. On our first week on the job, Brian Burke and I looked at each other and knew we had to move our minor league team out here. So this is a dream come true, and I thank [NHL Deputy Commissioner] Bill Daly, [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman and [AHL President & CEO] David Andrews for helping us make this happen. To my fellow GMs for sticking together, as competitive as we are, for this to happen is an amazing thing. We all have the same vision, and hopefully the same result for all of us coming out of this.

On a Tuesday morning in, say, November, I can – as the East Coast guys used to do – get up out of bed, and, instead of watching our guys practice, I can drive down the coast and go to San Diego to watch my minor league team practice. There is no price tag you can put on that. It’s so valuable to your players, and to you. This just exposes them to me and me to them so much more. It’s a remarkable thing. It’s a dream come true. People have been asking me, So who’s going to play on your team down there? Well, my answer is quite simple. On our Anaheim Ducks roster right now, there are only two players who did not play in the American Hockey League. That’s remarkable. As for San Diego, five years ago we started a high school league in the Southern California area. We had two teams. Today we have 41. Two years ago a team from our area won the national championship. Hockey is growing in California, even in our minor hockey at the bantam and midget levels, we have winners coming out of California in the last few years. Hockey is growing in California and on the West Coast. This is just going to take it one step farther. This is a great day for the Anaheim Ducks organization and San Diego.

On when he first got a sense that this could become a reality

In the beginning when I saw how resilient the GMs were and how much we all knew we had to do this. And when Michael Schulman got Bill Daly and Gary Bettman involved with David Andrews, I knew we were going somewhere. I knew something was going to happen. Thank goodness for those gentlemen, because you never know which way we may end up if it wasn’t for them.

On the excitement of hockey returning to the San Diego market
Schulman: Our high school league already uses San Diego teams. We already have fans and we have a train that stops in front of Honda Center. We already have a number of fans in San Diego. This is only going to increase the amount of interest in the Ducks, and I think we’re going to see it the other way, where a lot of our fans are excited about our young players, and wanting to go down to San Diego to watch them. We hope people will be Ducks fans from the Mexican border to Los Angeles.

Murray: San Diego was a really good hockey town a while ago, and then somewhere it got off the tracks. But it’s the seventh biggest city in the United States, so it’s a good market. They’re excited down there and we’re excited to be going there. The first pro games I ever scouted after I retired were in San Diego, and there were over 10,000 people there. It can be successful there. This is a pretty good marriage.

On if there were any loyalty issues with the current AHL affiliates on the East Coast
Schulman: The five teams, individually, all decided they wanted to move. We all had different term leases. We didn’t own a team, but some owned a team. Everybody had their own relationship, and the ability of getting five teams to agree, in a timing factor, that their leases would end and they could all move at the same time, was a challenge. Otherwise, we might’ve been able to do this a couple of years ago. We had to find a franchise to buy, which didn’t get approved until last week.

On the challenges of buying an AHL team
Schulman: We’ve been talking to the owner for about a year, and he made a decision to sell. It was pretty fast. It was approved 30-0, so there was no issue there.

On when ownership started laying the groundwork
Murray: I was down there a lot in August, going back and forth. There is still a lot of work to be done. We had to find a practice rink, and we had to look at the big rink and see what improvements needed to be made for the fans in San Diego. As we speak, the dressing room and locker room construction is about to start. We’re also putting new boards down in the arena. This was done for development. We want our players working out more and practicing more, so we have to make sure we have all the facilities in order to do that.

On where the practice facility will be located

Murray: Right now we think it’s going to be in Poway. That’s the one we’re waiting on. We have another plan in effect if it doesn’t get done immediately.

On if there are additional renovations in the works
Schulman: The arena is run by AEG, which owns the Kings, so it made it somewhat easier. We’re negotiating with them in terms of getting our lease. They have certain requirements and we have certain requirements. It’s been a long time since hockey has been played there, so we’re going to put a fair amount of money into it to improve it. AEG is making improvements to seats, but I don’t know exactly all the details. They’re adding some suites. 

On the amount of money saved in relocating to San Diego
Schulman: Bob will tell you it’s not a money thing. The players are going to be better equipped and less tired. You save money because you’re going to have a better product on the ice.

On the current challenges with logistics

Murray: First of all, if a goalie gets hurt in the morning, you can’t get somebody there. We’ve seen that happen. There are just so many things that can happen, and we eliminate that this way. Yeah, we should save some money in flights because we’ve had so many with all the injuries we’ve had. Think about the guys flying back and forth. But we’ve had guys lose skates, lose equipment, fly all night to get there and not have equipment. We needed to make this happen, and it’s going to happen.
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