The organization’s top prospects were shipped 3,000 miles across the country to neighboring Ontario, California, when the Kings relocated their American Hockey League franchise prior to the 2015-’16 season.
The move, unprecedented of it’s kind, involved five AHL teams forming new homes in California, and location was key.
It was an unfortunate decision for Manchester Monarchs fans in New Hampshire, who had seen the Kings’ youth develop before their eyes since 2001. While Manchester, New Hampshire is perfect for minor league hockey, being 3,000 miles and three time-zones away from Los Angeles had its disadvantages.
Now having their prospects available for immediate call-up when needed 60 miles east of STAPLES Center, the Kings’ minor league system is flourishing in Ontario, where Kings fans living on the outskirts of Los Angeles can now develop a closer relationship to the team and its future.
“Before, you know, a player might be leaving on a Wednesday morning after practice for a game at Staples on a Friday or Saturday,” said Reign President Darren Abbott. “Now they can stay here in Ontario, they can train with the AHL team and they can get called-up the day-of if necessary.”
Aside from the convenience of having the team’s developmental youth close to home, the move to Ontario has furthered the growth of hockey in California
“It’s the second best league in the world as far as I’m concerned,” said Kings development coach Mike O’Connell.
Attending a Reign game at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario is as close to NHL-caliber hockey as you can possibly get.
“There’s a lot of elite players playing in the American Hockey League right now, you’re seeing a situation where the NHL teams want their players fast-tracked as quickly as possible to be NHL-ready,” said Reign Head Coach Mike Stothers. “It is an extremely tough, fast game played at this level.”
Not only does the implementation of the Kings’ AHL team in Ontario help in growing hockey’s popularity in Southern California as well as providing a major factor of convenience for the big club, it helps the players who are developing on the ice as well.
“I think [the relocation] will go distances for these young kids, to know that the NHL club is not only watching them on video and paying attention to the stats and that, but they have a presence here,” said Kings Assistant General Manager Rob Blake.
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