C.J. Stretch won’t soon forget his first day at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
“I went to the fan appreciation thing,” he said of a meet-and-greet with coaches and players in March. “I hadn’t played a game yet, and (the fans) were all so excited I was coming there. It was a pretty good transition.”
The transition isn’t over. Stretch, an Irvine native, will get another look in Ontario after making his ECHL debut in the final game of last season. He’ll also get a tryout with the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs, the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, but will be back if he is cut from their training camp.
For the Reign, Stretch could be part of the solution for an offense that has ranked last in the ECHL in goals scored in its two years of existence. In juniors, Stretch was the Kamloops Blazers’ leading scorer in 2008-09 and 2009-10 – a responsibility the self-described “pass-first center” welcomes.
“I don’t think I would call it pressure,” he said. “I like to step up when there is pressure.”
His family’s home is about a 40-minute drive away, making the Reign an easy sell for head coach Karl Taylor. Stretch said his family would only get to see him play roughly once every two months for the last five seasons. Now they’re short on excuses.
“When I heard the team came out here a few years ago,” Stretch said, “I always wanted to play for them.”