A major change to the Kings’ organization was made this past season – a change that was yet another monumental step forward in the rapid growth of hockey in California.
One could call these days California’s “hockey rush”, if you will.
On February 11, 2015, it was officially announced that the Ontario Reign would be the Kings’ new American Hockey League affiliate – making the jump from the East Coast Hockey League, where the Manchester Monarchs will now be situated.
The press conference took place at the Citizens Business Bank Arena and was hosted by Kings radio announcer Nick Nickson. Luc Robitaille and Rob Blake were on hand to speak with AHL executives before they unveiled the team’s rebranding.
Rob Blake was certainly optimistic during his moments on the podium:
Blake, on the AHL moving to Ontario:
"I think this is just another extension of growth to hockey in Southern California. You look at how well the NHL has done out here in LA, in Anaheim, in San Jose, along with the growth of the youth hockey, and now we have the American Hockey League."
Blake, on the effects of youth/amateur hockey beacause of the AHL:
"I think anytime you have a professional hockey team in a certain area, the youth hockey growth will take off. I think this is a conscious effort of both LA and Anaheim, and the expansion of their youth hockey programs over the years, and all of the different buildings hockey is being played in, this is all a part of that."
Now, instead of having their top minor league prospects 3,018 miles away in Manchester, NH, they’ll be a mere 37 miles away in the Inland Empire in Ontario, CA. In the situation that that the Kings will need to call-up a player last-minute to plug a roster spot, this is a much better situation.
Ontario’s new logo and uniforms take a piece of the Kings’ past with a modernized twist – drawing back to the Kings’ ‘Chevy’ logo used from the 80’s through the early 90’s, as well as the black, silver, and white color combination.
Luc Robitaille took to reporters following the press conference:
Robitaille, on the move to Ontario:
"This is now our team that we need to cater to. We understand from the marketing standpoint that it's important for us to be involved. It's going to help the growth of the Kings' branding, for sure, but I think more importantly, it's going to help the growth of hockey."
Robitaille, on the uniform change:
"Our [current Kings jerseys], we asked our players ahead of time, and they wanted to go that route. We always feel that if our players love something, then the fans will love it. When we created [Ontario's new uniforms], we knew it was important to implement the same kind of colors because we want to keep the same pants and the same kind of gloves. Someone designed the new logo, we saw it, and it kind of felt like this was it."
The Reign will play their home games at the Citizens Business Bank Arena, which seats 9,736 for ice hockey. The arena features a lower bowl, upper bowl, with private suites located both in between the two seating sections, and also atop the upper-bowl on one end of the arena.
The Reign spent seven seasons as the Kings’ ECHL affiliate, most notably making it to the Kelly Cup's Western Conference Final last season, where they fell to the eventual league champions - the Allen Americans, in seven games.
Their final push for an ECHL championship was a valiant one, giving fans a taste of the uptempo arena atmosphere to come with AHL hockey in 2015-'16.
Ontario ranked first-overall in ECHL attendance during the 2014-'15 season, averaging 7,802 fans in 36 home games played - a total of 280,866 fans filed through Citizens Business Bank Arena's turnstiles last year - a number which will only grow with the arrival of AHL-caliber hockey.