This past weekend, the Ontario Reign celebrated the start of their 10th season with a pair of games against the Bakersfield Condors.
The Reign played their first season in Southern California during the 2008-09 ECHL season and quickly established Ontario as a viable hockey market.
The team's average attendance of 5,856 per game ranked second in the ECHL. This passion from fans for the newly minted Reign surprised even players from traditional markets, like Colten Teubert.
"The fans here are a lot louder than in Regina,"he said of the hockey-crazy Saskatchewan town where his previous team, the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, is based. "I really didn't think hockey would be a big hit here, but obviously, the fans are very into the game."
For seven years, the Reign served as the Kings ECHL affiliate while the Manchester Monarchs represented the Kings in the AHL. This gave Reign fans the opportunity to watch future Kings, such as Kyle Clifford, Nic Dowd and Adrian Kempe as they made their way to the NHL.
During that time, attendance grew from the initial average of 5,856 to well over 8,000 per game, at times ranking first in the league in attendance.
However, Ontario wasn't the only team thriving in the California sun.
The Bakersfield Condors and Stockton Thunder routinely averaged more than 4,500 fans per game. In January of 2015, the AHL announced creation of a Pacific Division that would include the Ontario Reign (Kings), Bakersfield Condors (Oilers), Stockton Heat (Flames), San Diego Gulls (Ducks) and San Jose Barracudas (Sharks).
The change would allow for better communication between the Kings development staff and their top prospects, making call ups and assignments more convenient.
For Reign fans, the promotion to the AHL came with a change in team colors, jerseys and mascot. But the interest and passion of the fans didn't change as the Reign finished fourth in AHL attendance, averaging over 8,500 fans per game.
This season, the Reign enter their third year as the LA Kings AHL affiliate. While the team has played in two different leagues, the fans have always been there for the club … no matter where they may be.
Fans lined up outside Citizen's Business Bank Arena Friday and Saturday to watch young Kings prospects like Matt Luff and Mike Amadio line up with veterans T.J. Hensik and Brett Sutter.
Sadly, the fans were treated to only a few highlights as the Reign lost both games and were shutout in the home opener Friday night.
If there's one thing we've learned over the years though, it's that Reign fans will always love and support their team.