Epilogue on a whirlwind week.

One could make the argument that the past two weeks were the most important in Reign history.

Think about it: A week ago Monday, Karl Taylor was the head coach, the Canucks were contemplating becoming a secondary affiliate, there was still no broadcaster, no assistant coach, and game-day parking at Citizens Business Bank Arena was still free for everyone. Today, Jason Christie and his offense-first approach are in the director’s chair and Mark Hardy is his right-hand man. Dan Hubbard is the internet radio voice, and season-ticket holders better hold onto that “free parking” sticker.

Much has changed in a short amount of time. We won’t know until October what it all means as wins and losses go, but if you’ve been following the team for any amount of time, you have to be intrigued by the possibilities. (Maybe not so much about the parking thing.)

I collected a lot of quotes this week that didn’t make the paper or the blog. Here they are:
Continue reading “Epilogue on a whirlwind week.” »

Hardy accepts assistant coaching offer.

Mark Hardy was running out of superlatives Wednesday to describe what it meant to become a professional hockey coach again.

“Awesome.” “A dream come true.” “A step in the right direction.” “A great feeling.”

You get the picture.

The 52-year-old former Kings defenseman and assistant coach turned down an offer to become a salesperson for a local electrician, choosing instead to return to the game as a minor-league assistant with the Reign. The one-year contract was formally announced today, one day after Jason Christie was named the new head coach.

Hardy’s exile from the Kings, and subsequent recovery, has been well-documented here and elsewhere. Will that come with a negative reaction, or is all forgiven from Kings fans?

I’ll have his thoughts about that, as well as those from Reign President Justin Kemp, in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Reign sign ex-Salmon King Couture.

Derek Couture, a gritty power forward who split last season between the AHL and the Victoria Salmon Kings, is the 10th player announced to have signed with the Reign.

The 6-foot-1 right wing turned pro in 2005-06, spending the majority of his time in the AHL. Couture, 27, has also played 10 games in the Austrian League and 50 games in the ECHL for Victoria, Charlotte and Elmira.

“He’s a big kid who is very aggressive in his style of play at our level,” said Karl Taylor, who signed Couture before resigning to take an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Wolves. “He’s been in the American League most of the time. He should be a top-3 forward, in my opinion, a real strong power forward. He’s not afraid to stick up for himself or his teammates. He’s a quiet guy but he plays a big game, a big signing who can really help the team out.”

Couture had 19 points (eight goals, 11 points) in 25 games for Victoria last season, along with 76 penalty minutes. In four ECHL playoff games, he had one goal and one assist. Playing for the Connecticut Whale, Couture had six goals and 10 points in 20 regular-season games along with one goal and one assist in six playoff games.

“He’s big, strong, skates well, likes to run people over. He’s going to be a fun player to watch. Someone Jason (Christie, the new head coach) can rely on for leadership. … Jason should be happy hopefully. Obviously Jason will have decisions on who he keeps.”

So far, the following players have been announced:

Forwards (4): Couture, Jordan Morrison, Kyle Kraemer, C.J. Stretch.

Defensemen (4): Chad Starling, Pat Bowen, Jason Fredricks, Adrian Van de Mosselaer.

Goalies (2): Jase Weslosky, Beau Erickson.

The Reign acquired the negotiating rights to forward Geoff Irwin from the Idaho Steelheads for forward Aaron Lewadniuk. A new contract for Irwin hasn’t been announced yet, but he’s expected to sign.

And the next coach of the Reign is …

… Jason Christie.

The Reign made their formal offer to the Bloomington Blaze head coach Monday, and Christie accepted the position last night. The hiring was first reported by the Bloomington (Ill.) Pantagraph.

“It all happened so fast,” Christie told the Pantagraph on Tuesday morning. “It’s a
great opportunity there, but it will be very hard to leave

Update 1: The Reign issued a press release confirming the hire.

Update 2: I just spoke to Mark Hardy, the former Kings defenseman and assistant coach, who confirmed that he has been offered the job of assistant coach. He is still mulling the offer.

Even if he declines, it’s a significant step for the 52-year-old Hardy, who resigned his assistant coaching post with the Kings after he was charged with felony fourth-degree sexual abuse in May 2010. The charges were later dropped.

But if Hardy’s return to hockey comes as an ECHL assistant, it’s hard to believe that the year-old scandal — a hot topic for the non-sports media after it was reported by TMZ — was overlooked. Hardy has since given up drinking, participated in several Kings alumni events and, most significantly, reconciled with his family. If he can reconcile with the hockey establishment too, the story would reverberate farther than the Reign hiring Christie as the head coach.

For what it’s worth, I spoke to two current players about the possibility of adding Hardy. One called it “great.” The other said it would be “phenomenal.”

Update 3: Justin Kemp said that he has one other assistant coaching candidate in mind besides Hardy. If both decline the offer, the Reign will go without an assistant coach. Kemp also divulged a few details about the Christie hire:

• It’s a two-year contract with an option for a third.
• Christie was his top choice “for the past few days,” after “we went back and forth a couple times early on.”
• Kemp said he got “somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30” applications for the head coaching position. None were from fans who thought they could do a better job than Karl Taylor.
• Because of a recent ownership change in Bloomington, Christie technically wasn’t currently under contract.
• Kemp wants Christie in Ontario in time for the free agent tryout camp, Sept. 23 and 24. Prior to that, the Reign will host a community “meet and greet” with the new coach at a time, date and location to be announced.

At long last, the Reign have a broadcaster.

After going three years without a terrestrial or internet broadcast presence, the Reign announced the hiring of Dan Hubbard on Wednesday to be the team’s radio voice.

Hubbard, 50, will broadcast all 36 home games and up to 7 select radio dates via the team’s website (ontarioreign.com) and AmericaOne.com.

A veteran broadcaster of nearly 30 years, Hubbard spent the last two seasons behind the mic at Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball games. For seven years prior to that, he was the radio voice of the UC Riverside men’s basketball team. Before that, Hubbard did television broadcasts with the Long Beach Ice Dogs.

More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Reign acquire Irwin for Lewadniuk.

The Reign announced a rare off-season trade Tuesday, sending forward Aaron Lewadniuk to the Idaho Steelheads for forward Geoff Irwin. The trade was completed before Karl Taylor accepted the assistant coaching position with the Chicago Wolves.

“We just felt a change in scenery for both guys was a good situation,” Taylor said. “That’s the way it kind of came together.”

Lewadniuk had received a qualifying offer from the Reign but hadn’t signed yet. Neither had Irwin.

“Usually when that (type of trade) occurs, there’s announcements that come shortly after,” Taylor said.

As a rookie in 2010-11, Irwin had 13 goals and 25 points in 57 games for the Steelheads. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, Irwin is almost the same size as Lewadniuk (5-11, 175) but offers more quickness, Taylor said. Lewadniuk is a right-handed shot; Irwin shoots left.

Lewadniuk was a popular player, whose biggest knock as a rookie was his inconsistency. The Reign’s lone All-Star in January, Lewadniuk finished with 17 goals and 31 points in 69 games.

The 22-year-old said after the season that he had “no reasons” why he wouldn’t want to come back, but might have had a change of heart this summer.

The Steelheads don’t visit Ontario until Feb. 18.

Reign sign Adrian Van de Mosselaer.

The Reign announced their first rookie signing of the 2011 summer class Tuesday, Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Adrian Van de Mosselaer.
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound defenseman figures to throw a few punches in Ontario. He led the Oil Kings with 137 penalty minutes in the regular season and tacked on 15 more in four playoff games. Van de Mosselaer could do more than fight in the Western Hockey League — 

his seven goals last season led all Edmonton defensemen, a group that included a first-round NHL draft pick in Mark Pysyk.
The Kelowna, BC native served as an assistant captain in 2010-11. Two YouTube clips of his fights are below:


Kemp talks about the next coach.

On the same day the Reign and Chicago Wolves formally announced that Karl Taylor was leaving fort he Canucks’ AHL affiliate, Justin Kemp was already looking forward.

As reported in today’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin, the coaching search is already underway. Kemp has both some ideal characteristics and a timetable in mind.

“My goal is to have this done as soon as possible,” Kemp said. “In a perfect world, we’ll have an announcement within a couple weeks, maybe sooner.

“Because this isn’t two or three months ago, we’re looking for someone who can come in and make an immediate impact. We recognize we haven’t made the playoffs the last two years. That’s the primary goal … to make us a winner right now, to take the players we’ve signed, hopefully bring in some of their own contacts. Someone that has some knowledge of the inner workings of just being the one guy. It’s a job that a lot of people think it’s an entry-level position and it’s really not. Coaches do a lot of things that have nothing to do with coaching. You don’t have the assistants.”

We’ll pass along more information as we know it. More from Kemp and Karl Taylor in tomorrow’s editions.

Stretch, Bowen accept qualifying offers.

The Reign brought their number of returning players to eight Tuesday, announcing that defenseman Pat Bowen and C.J. Stretch had accepted qualifying offers. Both were complimentary players who finished the season stronger than they began as rookies in 2010-11.

Bowen had three goals, 13 points, 32 penalty minutes, and a minus-10 rating in 52 games. The former Merrimack College standout might not have been
outstanding at any one thing, but was playing reliable minutes in
power-play, penalty kill, and even-strength situations by the end of the season.

At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Bowen adds a decent dose of size to a blue line that already includes 6-foot-6 veteran Chad Starling and 6-foot-2 Jason Fredricks. If there’s one thing missing from that trio, it’s scoring touch – the three combined for four goals between them last season. While those stats were limited by a lack of opportunity (Starling only appeared in 14 games, Fredricks 39) expect head coach Karl Taylor to target a potential power-play quarterback with his remaining blue line additions.

Stretch, a native of nearby Irvine, finished his first full pro season with nine goals and 21 points in 46 games. Always among the team’s most creative offensive players, he was
finally playing regular minutes, scoring consistently, and defending
reasonably well by the end of the season.  He also
single-handedly brought at least a dozen patrons to the stands at every
home game.

The 22-year-old joins a forward corps that includes center Jordan Morrison and winger Kyle Kraemer. That’s a group with plenty of offensive potential, but not much of a physical presence. As the forwards are concerned, it appears Taylor is addressing the need for power play candidates before the need for penalty killers.

Goalies Jase Weslosky and Beau Erickson also re-signed for 2011-12.

Reign announce open free agent tryouts.

The Reign are opening their doors to prospective training camp invitees for the fourth straight year at their open free-agent tryout Sept. 23 and 24 at Ice Town in Riverside.

From the official release:

The Ontario Reign, proud affiliate of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, will hold open tryouts on Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24.

Tryout attendees will have an opportunity to display their skills as the Reign search for players to invite to the 2011 Ontario Reign training camp which will run for two weeks. The coaching staff will direct the tryouts on both days.

Spots will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. The cost is $150 per player and includes two games, two practices, off-ice coaching sessions and a jersey. Player transportation to and from tryouts, accommodations and meals are the responsibility of the attending player.

All players must be 18 years of age or older and cannot be under contract with any other professional team or league at the “AA” level or higher (NHL, AHL, ECHL or Central Hockey League). Participating players are required to bring full equipment (including half-visor/shield for skaters and mask for goaltenders).

Players participating in the Free Agent Tryout Camp are eligible for a discounted hotel rate of $65 per night at the Sheraton Ontario Airport Hotel in Ontario, California. Reservations can be made by calling (800) 325-3535 or locally at (909) 937-8000 and mention the group rate code “Reign Free Agent Camp”. Reservations MUST be made by Friday, September 16, 2011.

To register for the Reign 2011-12 Free Agent Tryout Camp, please contact Ana Martinez by Friday, September 16, 2011 in the Reign front office at (909) 941-7825 or email her at amartinez@ontarioreign.com. To download the registration form click here.

Tryouts will be held at Ice Town in Riverside, California (Rink A) on Friday, September 23 from 6:25 p.m. to 10:25 p.m. and Saturday September 24 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Participants are encouraged to sign-up early to secure a spot. All sessions are open for public viewing.

Ice Town is located at 10540 Magnolia Avenue, Riverside, California. For directions visit Icetown.com.