The Ontario Reign want to thank their fans for making them the top team in the ECHL for fan attendance over the past seven seasons! The Reign entertained a total of 280,866 fans in the 2014-15 season, averaging 7,802 fans per game, the fifth time that Ontario has earned the ECHL attendance title!
An New Empire to Rule
On February 26, 2008, the ECHL announced that the former Texas Wildcatters membership would be transferred to Ontario. After receiving numerous entries in a “Name the Team” contest, Mike Brewster of Fontana’s entry, the Ontario Reign, was selected as the official team name and the logo was announced on March 17, 2008.
The Reign named Karl Taylor, former coach of the Reading Royals, the first-ever head coach of the new franchise on June 27, 2008. The team added their first player ever to the roster when they signed defenseman David Walker on July 29, 2008. Walker, who hails from Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, made his professional debut during the 2004-2005 season while playing with the now defunct Long Beach Ice Dogs.
The official team Web site, ontarioreign.com, was launched on August 19, 2008. The same day, the Reign’s first Zamboni was delivered to the Citizens Business Bank Arena, marking the 9,000th ice resurfacing machine manufactured by the Frank J. Zamboni Co. in the company’s 60 year history.
The Ontario Reign opened their inaugural season with a road game in Bakersfield on October 18, 2008, where they came away with their first-ever win with a score of 2-1. The first home game in club history was played October 25, 2008 at the brand-new Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario. The Reign defeated the Las Vegas Wranglers 4-1 to claim the victory in their home opener.
Ontario had three players named to the 2009 ECHL All-Star Game Roster: forwards Tim Kraus and Geoff Walker and goaltender John Murray.
The Reign earned a spot in the 2009 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs and was named the Pacific Division Champions after ending the regular season with a 38-29-4-2 record. They faced off against the Stockton Thunder in the first round, but the Reign’s inaugural season ultimately came to a close with a Game 7 loss to Stockton.
In their first-ever season, the Reign ranked second in attendance in the ECHL, drawing 210,801 to the Citizens Business Bank Arena during the 2008-2009 season, and averaging 5,856 fans at each game.
During the team’s formative years, the Reign continued to build on the success established in the club’s inaugural campaign, as the team proceeded to take the ECHL attendance title for the next three seasons, averaging 6,451 fans in 2009-10, 6,683 in 2010-11 and 6,309 in 2011-12. In this time, Ontario’s front office garnered a number of league accolades, including Web Site of the Year in 2009-10 and ECHL Ticket Department of the Year for 2010-11.
Approaching the Reign's fourth season, Coach Taylor took on an assistant coaching position with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, leaving an opening for a new head coach. The 2010-11 CHL "Coach of the Year," Jason Christie, joined the Reign August 23, 2011. For the first time in franchise history, the team brought in an assistant coach. Mark Hardy, former Los Angeles Kings assistant coach, joined the Reign bench on August 24, 2011.
Under the helm of Christie and Hardy, Ontario returned to the playoffs, as they clinched their second Pacific Division title in club history during the 2011-12 season; Christie was recognized as coach for the All-ECHL Second Team. The Reign front office continued to receive acclaim, as team president Justin Kemp took home ECHL Executive of the Year honors. Jason Fredricks represented Ontario as recipient of the ECHL Community Service Award for his proactive approach to community service during his two seasons with the team.
On June 11, 2012, the Reign celebrated another team first, as Dwight King and Jordan Nolan became the first Reign alumni to win the Stanley Cup.
The Next Step
More success would follow Ontario in 2012-13. The team posted 46 wins and 99 points, en route to a second straight Pacific Division championship.
Individually, several players achieved success. Kyle Kraemer would become the club’s all-time leading scorer, and earned a spot on the All-ECHL Second Team. Kraemer was joined by teammate Colton Yellow Horn – who set a club record with his 36 goals during the regular season – as the first Reign players to be named to a postseason all-star team. Ontario continued to develop young players as well. Cameron Burt and Mario Lamoureux were also named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team.
Several NHL players also spent some time in Ontario. Among those included Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford, Devin Setoguchi, Paul Mara and D.J. King.
The Reign’s fifth season in the Inland Empire proved to be its best yet for its fans as well. The team shattered its previous attendance records, and welcomed its one millionth fan through the doors of Citizens Business Bank Arena on December 19, 2012, as Logan Jalynski of Riverside took home a pair of season tickets for the following season.
The 2013 Kelly Cup Playoffs brought with it great promise and expectations. Ontario opened its Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup with the Utah Grizzlies with great fanfare. On April 4, 2013, C.J. Stretch tied an ECHL playoff record with four goals in a 7-2 victory over the Grizzlies.
The best was yet to come, as the series shifted to Utah for Games 3 and 4. After a thrilling come-from-behind overtime victory in Game 3, the Reign were on the verge of a series sweep. However, late in the third period of Game 4, the Reign trailed by 1-0 score. Brodie Sheahan’s game-tying goal would send the contest to another sudden-death overtime, where Everett Sheen’s tally at 1:55 completed the sweep, sending Ontario to the second round for the first time in club history.
Alas, the Reign saw their Kelly Cup hopes come to an end in the next round, as they were eliminated for the second straight season by the Idaho Steelheads.
The team continued to build on its sterling reputation as a premier ECHL club in 2012-13, receiving recognition as the ECHL Ticket Department of the Year for the second time in three seasons.
On May 30, 2013, the Reign announced a secondary affiliation with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets and the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps.
The additional affiliation paid dividends for Ontario right away, as several players were assigned from the Jets and IceCaps prior to the start of the season.
One player in particular, goaltender Michael Hutchinson, would make waves in his only season in a Reign uniform, capturing Goaltender of the Month honors in November, and leading Ontario to a first place lead by the winter. Hutchinson would go on to become the first developmental player in the Reign organization to graduate to the NHL in the same season with the Reign, making his NHL debut for the Jets on April 7, 2014.
The Reign, meanwhile, without the services of Hutchinson, were bolstered by several players being assigned to the team from the San Jose Sharks after their affiliate, the San Francisco Bulls, ceased operations midway through the season. One notable addition was Upland native Kyle Bigos, who dazzled fans with his crunching bodychecks and defensive play.
Ontario finished the season with a third straight Pacific Division title, while defenseman Matt Register brought great pride to the Reign organization by becoming the first member of the team to receive All-ECHL First Team honors, and being named ECHL Defenseman of the Year.
The Reign drew their rivals, the Stockton Thunder, in the opening round of the 2014 Kelly Cup playoffs, and though Ontario appeared poised for another run, Stockton gained the upper hand, defeating the Reign in four games.
At league meetings, the organization was recognized for its excellence in overall business by being named the ECHL Organization of the year.
The offseason brought with it more change, as assistant coach Mark Hardy accepted an assistant coaching position with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.
The 2014-15 season was a season to remember for Ontario, as the season was marked by several memorable moments, including Derek Couture's club record 84th career goal on January 31 against Idaho. As the ECHL trade deadline loomed, Coach Christie made several moves to bring in experienced players such as David Rutherford, Josh Brittain and Garry Nunn.
Aided by a defensive core anchored by Register, Jeff May and Nolan Julseth-White, and stalwart goaltending of Jussi Olkinuora and Joe Cannata, Ontario battled back from a 3-2 series deficit to the Colorado Eagles in the Pacific Division Semifinals, and then sped through the Utah Grizzlies in five games to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in club history. The magical run would come to an end in a seven-game defeat to the Allen Americans.
The Reign now prepare to enter their eighth season in the Inland Empire - and first as an American Hockey League franchise - committed to bringing quality and affordable entertainment to their fans, young and old!