San Diego’s Return to Minor Hockey Changes Landscape


The Anaheim Ducks new AHL squad will be located in San Diego, and the team announced on Thursday that the team nickname will be announced on Sunday, February 22nd at a “HockeyFest” event from San Diego.

Recently it was announced that five teams from the American Hockey League would move to California to create a new western division. Anaheim’s affiliate, formerly located in Norfolk, Virginia, will be in San Diego.

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The team will begin play in the fall of 2015 from the Valley View Casino Center in downtown San Diego. They will join a pro sports scene that includes the San Diego Padres baseball and San Diego Chargers football teams. The San Diego Gulls are a former minor league hockey team that played in the city off and on between 1966 and 1995.

The original Gulls played in the Western Hockey League from 1966-1974, when the Gulls folded to make room for the San Diego Mariners of the professional World Hockey Association.

The Mariners lasted until 1977, and hockey did not return to the area until 1990 when the Gulls returned as a part of the International Hockey League. The relocated to Los Angeles and in 1995 a new Gulls team returned in the West Coast Hockey League with a team that lasted until 2006.

The Los Angeles Kings and the Ducks have found success as hockey markets in Southern California, but historically minor league hockey has not worked. With both the NHL and AHL backing this new movement, it could mean hockey long term in the San Diego market.

Not many NHL players have come out of Southern California, and only three players today are from the area; Jonathan Blum from the Nashville Predators, Emerson Etem from the Ducks, and Matthew Nieto from the San Jose Sharks.

No NHL player has ever come from San Diego to this point.

With so many AHL teams moving to California, some ECHL teams from the area have been forced to move. New ECHL teams will emerge in Norfolk, Adirondack, and Manchester, causing the ECHL clubs from Stockton, Ontario, and Bakersfield to move.

There are no other California ECHL teams, so the league is completely relocating from that area, living up more to its former name of the East Coast Hockey League.

It’s unlikely new teams will move to the ECHL, and if teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes decide to move their affiliates, the ECHL could move more of its teams to the east coast instead.