The San Diego Gulls took the ice on October 10, 2015 to open their inaugural American Hockey League (AHL) season in San Diego, California. One of seven teams in the AHL’s recently created Pacific Division and one of five playing in their inaugural season, the San Diego Gulls concluded the 2015-16 regular season with a record of 39-23-4-2, earning second place in the Pacific Division and fifth in the Western Conference. The Gulls made their first appearance in the Calder Cup Playoffs on April 21, 2016 at the Texas Stars and won their first playoff series three-games-to-one with a 6-2 victory over the Stars on April 29, 2016. San Diego advanced to the Pacific Division Finals, eventually bowing to the Ontario Reign four-games-to-one. In the inaugural season, San Diego ranked second among league leaders in average attendance (8,675), bringing nearly 300,000 fans to watch Gulls hockey at Valley View Casino Center.
Dallas Eakins was named Head Coach for the inaugural AHL season. Eakins, who appeared in 120 NHL contests with Winnipeg, Florida, St. Louis, Phoenix, New York Rangers, Toronto, New York Islanders and Calgary, has coached at the AHL and NHL levels for the past 11 seasons and spent nearly 20 seasons prior as a player. Eakins’ staff includes assistant coach Marty Wilford (fifth season with the Anaheim organization) and video coach Brett Ferguson (sixth season with the Anaheim organization).
Professional hockey in San Diego has a rich history, dating to the San Diego Skyhawks of the Pacific Coast Hockey League in 1944. Since then, San Diego has been home to several professional teams and leagues throughout the years, including the aforementioned Skyhawks (1944-50), Gulls of the Western Hockey League (1966-74), Mariners of the World Hockey Association (1974-77) and Pacific Hockey League (1977-78), Hawks of the PHL (1978-79) and Gulls of the International Hockey League (1990-95), West Coast Hockey League (1995-03) and ECHL (2003-06).
Valley View Casino Center, San Diego’s home venue, opened on Nov. 17, 1966 with a 4-1 San Diego Gulls (WHL) victory over the Seattle Totems. Valley View Casino Center (formerly San Diego Sports Arena and iPayOne Center) has housed professional hockey, basketball, indoor soccer, arena football, tennis and numerous entertainment events. A central figure in San Diego sports history, Valley View Casino Center has recently seen significant arena upgrades, most notably, the Gulls and Valley View Casino Center unveiled a new state-of-the-art scoreboard for the 2015-16 campaign.