The Gulls are flying home. After a year’s “migration” to Five Point Arena in Irvine during the pandemic, the San Diego Gulls in the American Hockey League will return to action on Friday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at Pechanga Arena.
In the first home game with fans in 609 days, the team’s opponent will be the Stockton Heat. The club’s 68-game regular schedule began Oct. 16 on the road against the Ontario Reign.
Affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League, the Gulls will host all eight AHL Pacific Division opponents as part of its 2021-22 schedule. San Diego will play nine different Western Conference opponents with 64 games against the Pacific Division and four inter-conference contests.
San Diego will have 23 home weekend dates, including 11 Friday and 11 Saturday games, and one Sunday contest. The Gulls will also play 24 sets of back-to-back games throughout the season.
A die-hard hockey, and Gulls fan (and Peninsula Beacon contributor) Scott Hopkins, a fourth-generation San Diegan who grew up in Point Loma and is a Point Loma High alumnus, is overjoyed the team has returned.
“Hockey is the only sport I feel I must attend to enjoy,” Hopkins said. “Hockey is unique. The puck moves so fast. The players are moving at all times and the action level is so much higher than other sports.
“Much of the action is away from the puck and being in my seat four rows from the ice allows me to see movement, positioning, and personal battles taking place. I can even see facial expressions and sometimes read lips from the players only 10 feet away and separated by a plexiglass panel.”
Added Hopkins: “Since the pandemic, I was able to see the games over a streaming service, AHL-TV … But it just wasn't the same. There is an unmistakable feeling when walking into Pechanga Arena for a game.
“The players enter the ice to the roar of a typically large Gulls crowd, the singing of the national anthem, and that moment when the puck drops and the game is on. It's a feeling like no other in sports, and one that I have missed terribly and can't wait to experience again now that hockey is back in San Diego.”
Player Simon Benoit, a Gulls defenseman, admitted that “we were missing fans a lot. Last year, we were in Irvine, but my first three years I loved it here. For me, it's just back to the basics. We have a good group of guys. Everybody wants to work hard. From now on, I think we're just going to get used to playing with each other and great things are going to happen from that.
“I can't wait for the first game. It's going to be buzzing for sure. It's the best place to play. There's always a big crowd and everyone is cheering. For us, when we play at home, it gives us that little energy. For them (opponents), it's more intimidating.”
“I respect hockey players a lot. I was one of those guys who fight to be in the NHL, and sometimes I had to go back,” said Gulls head coach Joel Bouchard. “There's not one thing they are living that I haven't lived, and I know how important it is for them and their career. I want to make sure I can push the right button so they can become the best NHL player they can become, or the best version of themselves, and have a really good pro career.
“I'm really detail-oriented, I'm really demanding. It's going to take a little time for everyone to get used to it, but success is not a magic trick. You have to work at it. The guys have been having a great attitude so far.”
The San Diego Gulls home opener on Oct. 22 will feature a host of festivities to welcome back fans to Pechanga Arena for the first time since Feb. 22, 2020. The celebration will include the first $2 Bud Light Night of the season, an interactive photo booth, live music, and more. Fans will be encouraged to arrive early for a special team introduction ceremony and pre-game laser show, with the first 8,000 in attendance receiving a blue home opener rally towel and orange light-up wristband.
Tickets for all Gulls home games are on sale through a Gulls' elite membership. Memberships can be purchased for $14 per game ($476) for the 2021-22 season and include benefits such as free parking, a dedicated members-only entrance into Pechanga Arena, access to exclusive Gulls elite member events with Gulls players and coaches, playoff priority, Stella Artois Lounge access and more.
Fans can purchase tickets by calling 844-GO-GULLS or visiting sandiegogulls.com.
GULLS SPECIAL EVENT NIGHTS
The San Diego Gulls will host 13 promotional and theme nights, including seven giveaway items, as the club returns to Pechanga Arena for their seventh season of AHL hockey.
Heroes Night (Nov. 5)
Military Appreciation Night (Nov. 6)
Gulls Third Jersey Debut (Nov. 26)
Winter Wonderland Night (Dec. 18)
Marvel Super Hero Night (Jan. 15)
Pink In The Rink (Feb. 2)
Hockey Is For Everyone Night (Feb. 5)
Casino Night (Feb. 19)
Star Wars Night (March 12)
Community Night (March 27)
Hockey Fights Cancer (April 2)
Fan Appreciation Night (April 23)