CLAREMONT - Lisa Bruchet met Andrew Martens, his wife, and son at a Reign season-ticket holder event at Santa Anita Park last year. A lifelong hockey fan, Bruchet befriended the Reign defenseman, and before long her 14-year-old daughter was babysitting Martens' son, Maverik.
Bruchet was at the Doubletree Hotel Claremont on Thursday, bidding on the Reign's warm-up jerseys at an auction to benefit the Loma Linda Children's Hospital Foundation.
Appropriate for a team that led the ECHL in attendance during the 2009-10 season, the room was nearly full with fans, players and Reign employees.
"They're fun to watch no matter what," Bruchet said. "I'm a true fan. True fans support the team good or bad, right?"
Clearly, the Reign have a few. They were the only team in the eight-team National Conference to miss the playoffs, yet drew an average of 6,451 to Citizens Business Bank Arena - more than 150 ahead of the second-place Toledo Walleye.
"I always say I'm shocked at the turnout," said Justin Kemp, the Reign's executive vice president of business operations, "but I should stop being so shocked."
Carrie Moore grew up rooting for the Kings, even cutting class to watch Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille play at The Forum.
Now that she lives in Rancho Cucamonga, Moore relishes the fact that a hockey team is playing close to her home.
"You see these (fans) all the time, you get to know some of the familiar faces, and it's something you look forward to to relax away from home - even though home is only five minutes up the street," she said.
Reign head coach Karl Taylor was impressed by the turnout even when the games weren't up the street, specifically mentioning the estimated 300-plus fans that attended the team's season-ending series in Las Vegas.
"Even when things weren't going the way we wanted them to," Taylor said, "you guys believed in us and it makes a difference."
Joanna DeLeon said she knew nothing about hockey before she saw a Reign game. The director of the Children's Hospital Foundation, DeLeon began to learn about the sport as the Reign got to know about the foundation.
"It's been really exciting to see how involved these players are," she said. "Immediately - before I met these players - they were talking about how to give back."
So when the Reign's season ended earlier than expected, the giving back merely started that much sooner.