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Over 300,000 People Attend
San Diego Gulls Stanley Cup Parade
April 20th, 2017
Tens of thousands of blue-and-orange clad San Diego Gulls fans lined the streets of downtown San Diego this past Friday to cheer their team’s first Stanley Cup win. The team won the AFHL championship last Sunday, defeating the Pittsburgh Heroes via tiebreaker in an overtime nailbiter.
Players shaved off their beards, boarded a double decker buses and hoisted the gleaming 35-pound Stanley Cup for the screaming and elated fans who lined the streets near their home ice arena to see them.
Blue and orange confetti rained on fans and the team as the Stanley Cup was held up by Gulls players.
“It’s huge,” said Gulls fan Jennifer Rogers, 33, of San Diego, before the start of the parade. “We won the Stanley Cup! We’ve finally arrived on the sports scene.”
San Diego Police Department officials declined to estimate the number of spectators but Jeff Moeller, a spokesman for the San Diego Gulls, said they estimated that as many as 300,000 people attended the parade and about 18,000 people attended the rally afterwards at their home ice arena.
Signs held up along the route displayed San Diego’s passion and gratitude for the team. “Gutted X-Men. Killed Supermen. Heroes Fall,” read one. Fans began to line the parade route hours before the start and cheered with all their might as their heroes passed. Some admitted to calling in sick or leaving work early to celebrate with their team.
“I’m on vacation to watch this,” said Eduardo Renteria, 15, of Lincoln, Nebraska. “I was born in this city and I love this team.”
Dave Carpenter, 40, of Santa Clarita, held his daughter on his shoulders as the parade got underway. He said he’s been a fan since the late since Lucas Main took over the franchise, when it was a bottom five team in the league.
“I love everything about them — their resilience.” Carpenter said of the team. “They have an ability to come back no matter what. … What they’ve accomplished in the last three years is simply amazing.”
The parade was held along several streets in San Diego. A heavy police presence could be seen around their home ice arena.
Despite the intense mid-day heat, Pam Noonan, 50, of Bell Canyon was thrilled to attend the victory parade with a large group of family and friends.
Noonan said they had watched Sunday night’s “very dramatic” game — the longest in the team’s history — on television with “bated breath” until the perfect, winning goal by Drake Caggiula was scored.
“Hopefully, they’ll do it again next year,” Noonan said. “They’ve got a great coach, a great team. Couldn’t ask for anything better but we’d love if they did more.”
Noonan’s nephew Chris Kuchinka, 19, of Moorpark, was standing next to her in the crowd cheering “Go Gulls Go!” at the top of his lungs.
Kuchinka, “a huge fan” of Gulls’ goalie John Gibson who wore a T-shirt that bore the player’s name, is a goalie himself for the Van Nuys-based California Condors, a special needs ice hockey team.
“This is an awesome experience,” Kuchinka said.
Clean-shaven team members said this time’s Stanley Cup win proved to be an uphill, yet satisfying challenge.
“It’s emotional, it was an exhaustive ride for us to come on top,” said Gulls forward Claude Giroux.
Goalie John Gibson had a brief answer for what he liked most about winning the Stanley Cup.
“Celebrating. The People,” he said.
San Diego Police Department spokeswoman Rosario Herrera said no problems or arrests had been reported.
“The crowd was spirited, well-behaved,” said Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey. “We’re aware of no significant injuries or illnesses among the large crowd.”
The celebrations concluded inside San Diego home ice arena with a rally for fans.
GM Lucas Main was among those riding on a bus with the Gulls players. His speech almost outshined the grand parade, when he dropped the “F” bomb.
“There are two rules in management,” Main said gleefully, with a bottle of beer in his hand. “Never be pictured with a drink in your hand, and never swear but this is a big fucking day!!!”
San Diego Wins the 2017 AFHL Stanley Cup
April 10th, 2017
While the San Diego Gulls beelined across the ice to mob their goaltender at the buzzer, hockey analyst Pierre McGuire ran up to Gulls coach Lucas Main and asked him how it felt to be the AFHL’s best.
“This is an incredible feeling, it’s hard to really put it into words,” said Lucas, his eyes moist with emotion. “It’s a special moment right now. We’re so deserving of what has happened here. This is not a fluke. This is something we earned.”
The hero was trade deadline acquisition Drake Caggiula who scored the GWG to tie the game 5-5. The Gulls then defeated the Pittsburgh Heroes via tiebreaker (best record) to win their first Stanley Cup in AFHL history.
“Credit must go to Lucas,” Caggiula said after he slapped in the winning goal to help the Gulls capture the Stanley Cup in a thrilling Game 7 on Sunday Night. “He made critical transactions throughout the season and kept us on course despite the criticism and the adversity, and there’s no denying that he made all the right moves to shape this Cup-winning roster.”
Gulls defenseman Drew Doughty might have best encapsulated what it meant for this team that rebuilt itself through trades and drafts to emerge as AFHL Champion.
“There’s no other feeling like it. It’s what you have work for every day,” said Doughty. “To raise that over my head is the best thing that ever happened. The guys start from day one in training camp. We create that bond. We’re with each other so much throughout the day, and in the week. We’re a hard-working group, guys that you love. It wasn’t easy. We won some matchups which appeared to look easy, but it wasn’t. All those teams gave us a great battle.”
Winning is addictive.
“I’ve already won one, and now I want to know another one,” Doughty said smiling.
Drake Caggiula’s game winning goal sent the San Diego home ice crowd into a frenzy that lasted until Claude Giroux hoisted the Cup and paraded it around the ice. Giroux handed off to goaltender John Gibson who posted a sparkling 2.22 GAA this year.
“I got to compete for that silver thing. That means a lot,” said an emotional Gibson. “We battled so much stuff over the years… we’re a great team and we started to play to our capabilities.”
Then it went to Ryan Kesler who almost dropped it.
“It’s really heavy,” Kesler said of the Cup, “but I managed to pull through. It’s special because it’s a great group of guys. We’ve had our struggles. We were down at the bottom… It’s hard to believe.”
Eventually it went Nikita Kucherov, who passed it to Gulls GM Lucas Main.
“It’s great,” said Kucherov. “It’s what we work all our life for. It’s unbelievable.”
Pittsburgh Heroes coach Jason Henley took the high road following the game.
“Tonight is about San Diego and letting them celebrate,” said Henley. “Obviously we’re devastated as a team. We worked all year to get to this point. To fall short like this is a tough one to take… but we’re a good team, and we’ll be back.”
The San Diego Gulls are set to celebrate their first AFHL Stanley Cup with a parade through the streets of San Diego on Friday, which will begin at 11:30 a.m. local time at Balboa Park.
The parade route will start in front of Balboa Park and proceed southwest until taking a right onto Main Street and ending at the Union Street intersection, where a stage will be set up for the players and coaches to make comments and address the crowd.
The city of San Diego is focused on safety for the event:
“In the interest of safety, the parade route will be restricted to designated parade participants only. Members of the media (with the exception of the single designated photographers and videographers) and members of the public will not be permitted inside the parade route.”
Television coverage of the event will be provided by WPXI beginning at 12 p.m. EST and running through the entire event. You can also stream the parade live on the Gulls’ website.
2017 AFHL Stanley Cup Finals
Best Quotes from Media Day
April 3rd, 2017
Friends become foes when the puck drops on the Stanley Cup finals between the Pittsburgh Heroes and San Diego Gulls, Monday at 7 p.m. EST.
Monday was the annual media day on the eve of the finals. Management, coaches and players spewed comments about respecting their opponents and how much they value their contributions to the game of hockey.
Blah, blah blah.
When Game 1 gets under way, all those flowery comments go out the window because hockey’s ultimate goal is at stake. Over the next week, the Heroes and Gulls will battle, claw and chew their way for the opportunity to hoist the Stanley Cup in victory.
Here are some of the most interesting quotes from media day:
There’s so much love for the Heroes’ Marian Hossa. The veteran forward has returned to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in 8 seasons during his AFHL career. His first trip was with the Buffalo Phantoms and resulted in a loss. This second trip is something most thought would never happen again because of his laid-back attitude and stage of his career. Many believe Hossa is still one of the best players in the world; he has been outstanding for the majority of the season and his teammates are feeding off his energy and production (maybe it’s the beard). But Hossa is ready to do whatever it takes to accomplish hockey’s greatest goal.
“Here we go,” he said. “Let’s do this. It was [worth the wait]. It would have been nice back in 2010, but you definitely appreciate it now this late in your career. You realize how hard you’ve got to work to get to this point and I’m happy to be here.”
During his career, there has been this stigma that he didn’t care enough about the game. That’s not the case and here’s why:
“If you know me, it doesn’t affect me,” he said. “I know I’m a great player. I know we’ve had some great teams, [they] just didn’t mix. It does take 30+ guys and that’s just the reality of it. I know this year’s team, one, two, three guys isn’t going to make us get here and to win it. So, it takes all 30+ guys and I realize that.”
The Gulls’ Dustin Brown has won a Stanley Cup before. He was young at the time but understands this opportunity doesn’t come around too often and when it does, you must seize it with your very best effort without leaving anything in the gas tank.
“It’s easy to be proud of yourself for doing what we’ve done, but we can’t afford to sit back, pat ourselves on the back and take a breath,” he said. “We’ve got a long summer ahead of you after this series, and you’re on the doorstep, and this is what we’ve worked our whole lives for and it’s an opportunity you can’t let slip by without putting your very best hockey out there. You can’t always control the result, but if each guy is worried about bringing his individual best game, we’re in good shape. But it’s one of those things you can’t just stop and take a look around because it’s gone in an instant, and the series is over. You’ve got to bring your best from the beginning of it, stay focused on your job and bring your best game.”
Gulls defenseman Drew Doughty on what it’s going to take to stop the Heroes’ Connor McDavid: “McDavid does everything well. In the first two rounds, put all their top players together and that would be McDavid. It’s going to be a lot harder but a lot more fun.”
Gulls forward Drake Caggiula doesn’t say much, but when you ask him about playing on the same team as McDavid, safe to say you’ll get an honest answer.
“I’m fortunate to have grown up playing with one of the best players in the world,” Caggiula said. “It’s fun to see him in practice and that’s something people may not think about. He’s a real grinder, always out there trying to get better. He skates extremely hard in practice. He’s a real competitor.”
No matter which Gulls player you asked about No. 97, work ethic was a major topic of discussion.
“That’s the reason he is the best player, just the way he grinds,” Doughty added. “Every shift, every practice. He’s got the hands and hockey sense not many players have. The reason he is where he is right now is because of how he grinds every day and probably all summer as well.”
Heroes’ captain Connor McDavid didn’t shy away from the questions about the leadership core and all the changes, ebbs and flows during recent seasons. Now, that the team is ready for the Stanley Cup finals, everything has fallen into place nicely for the Heroes. They are only one win shy of hoisting the Cup, but the captain is quick to slow things down.
“There’s a lot left to accomplish,” he said. “Especially for the guys who were here during the rebuilding years, you never want to have to go through something like that to get to where you are now, but that’s what this team has done. You don’t stop. Just stay with it. There are some guys who had a chance to stay together and, whether it was going to happen or not, stuck together and stayed with it and the team this year has really come together and played well, so we’re here now, so we’ll try to stay focused here for the next week.”
The AFHL Stanley Cup Chase Begins
March 20th, 2017
You won’t find any true bracket-busters in this year’s AFHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
There are eight teams in the hunt for the silver chalice, and from top to bottom every club can make a case that it can skate off with the AFHL’s biggest prize.
Going into the final week of the regular season, three teams were battling for the last playoff spot. The Comox Valley X-Men clinched that spot late Sunday night finishing the season with just a few more points than Deer Park and Boston.
“It’s been quite a year” said X-Men goaltender Robin Lehner. “We feel now that finally we got in, we can start over here hopefully and try to do something.”
Players from all eight teams talked to reporters after their morning practices today discussing everything from how excited their respective fan bases are to strategies against their opponents.
“It’s nice to see our fans happy about us being in the playoffs,” said Laval Nomads forward Patrik Laine. “I noticed signs and well wishes for our team as I drove through the neighborhood to the arena today.”
Henrik Lundqvist was back at practice today for the Manhattan Supermen feeling “pretty close to 100%” and ready to respect the Nomads’ talents, but not prepared to bend a knee to a heavily-favored opponent.
“They’re fast, they’re good, but we know we can beat them,” Lundqvist said with a confident nod, practicing fully after leaving Monday’s session early for precautionary reasons. “It’s just going to be a very tough and challenging series.”
Washington coach Rick Charron cracked a wry smile when asked about playing against his good friend Keith Cancilla in the First Round and noted his Wolfpack is not getting much credit entering Game 1 of this first-round series Monday night in Port Hope.
“I don’t think a lot of people are picking us right now, which is fine and dandy,” the Washington coach said. “We’ll just go out, and we’ll play.”
Port Hope defenseman Kris Letang said he’s been skating but not practicing yet, although he had the familiar excitement and intensity in his eyes that come with his playing at this time of year.
“Every time you don’t feel 100%, obviously you don’t know exactly when you’re gonna feel great again, but today was good, a good skate for me,” Letang said. “Hopefully with another skate I will be ready.”
Pittsburgh Heroes forward Connor McDavid is excited for his first taste of the AFHL Playoffs. At a certain point during his presser though, he didn’t want to hear about how difficult it will be to beat the Toronto Red Devils.
“We know they’re good. We don’t need to think more than that,” McDavid said. “I think it’s important we focus on ourselves and what we need to do. It doesn’t matter what other people think.”
Toronto GM Jordan Carbone believes he has a decent shot this year to be the first in AFHL history to win two Stanley Cups.
“I’m definitely motivated to be the first to win two,” said Carbone after the Red Devils morning skate. “I’d love to get another one, no doubt, and I’ll do everything I can to try to do it.”
The number one seeded San Diego Gulls feel they are better prepared this year than in previous years to win it all.
“There are a few new guys who are going to come in here for the first time and be like, ‘Wow, this is crazy, I haven’t seen anything like this before,'” San Diego GM Lucas Main said. “But we have the same core of players so I think the difference will be experience. I think you soak it in through osmosis. It’s not the kind of stuff you can write down. It’s those feelings, it’s those rising to the occasions.”