Gulls Excited to Finally Return Home
By AJ Manderichio / SanDiegoGulls.comOct 17, 2019
The Gulls are almost - and finally - home.
“We’re obviously excited,” defenseman Josh Mahura said. “Playing in three straight home openers to start the year is never fun.
“We’re excited to get behind our crowd. We believe we have the best fans here in the league. It’s always a boost for us when we’re able to play at home, so everyone’s really excited.”
Players and fans alike waited four-plus months for hockey to return to Pechanga Arena, which comes tomorrow with the Home Opener presented by California Coast Credit Union. After a thrilling second-half push – and the team’s run to the Western Conference Finals – the sense of optimism heading into the 2019-2020 season is matched only by the excitement to finally get back in front of America’s Finest Fans.
“It’s hard to put it into words, to be honest,” goaltender Kevin Boyle said. “We’ve been top-five in attendance the last few years, and the support they show us drives us to be better.”
“We have a really enthusiastic crowd that helps us and can get us through times when maybe our game isn’t there,” Justin Kloos explained. “The past couple of weeks, our game hasn’t been [there], so maybe Friday night we’ll come out firing on all cylinders. If not, we know that home crowd will kick us in the rear end and get us going.”
It’s clear the America’s Finest Fans moniker is a well-earned one for the jersey-clad Pechanga Arena crowd.
Last season, San Diego continued its growth in the local market, once again leading the league in attendance, with an average of more than 9,000 fans per fame. Since they entered the AHL four years ago, more than 1 million fans attended a game, with the average crowd of 8,969 leading the Western Conference and ranking second among all clubs to the Hershey Bears, the Washington Capitals affiliate, and the longest continuously operating member club of the league still playing in its original city dating to 1938.
This included last season’s playoffs, were the Gulls led the AHL in attendance (8,036 average) and total attendance (64,290) in their eight postseason games.
When the fans get rolling – and they bring the noise with regularity – it provides an immediate boost to the players on the ice.
“It’s huge. It gets pretty loud in there, obviously gets us going and helps us to want to play better and be better,” Mahura said. “It’s obviously exciting, especially when you have a fan base like that, to play at home anytime you can.”
It isn’t just the veterans excited for the Home Opener.
Rookie defenseman Jani Hakanpaa, who spent the last four seasons playing professionally in Finland, smiled when he previewed his first game in front of the home fans.
“I heard they’re awesome. It’s going to be buzzing out there,” he said, smiling while discussing his first professional game at Pechanga Arena. “I’m just trying to go out there and enjoy it. It’s been a long time since I played a home game, so it’s going to be nice to finally get there.”
Tickets are still available for tomorrow night! Grab yours and get a rally towel, presented by California Coast Credit Union, and enjoy $2 Bud Light Night. Click here to buy your tickets today!