By LINDSEY RODRIAN | profile Photos by Dan Hood

San Joaquin Welcomes the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat

  “We have a few surprises to roll out,” Stockton Heat President Dave Piecuch smiles, in regards to the much-anticipated October 10th opening game. Hockey enthusiasts and residents looking for a solid dose of entertainment will surely flock to Stockton Arena, now home to the city’s first American Hockey League (AHL) team, the Stockton Heat. “We want this place to be rocking and rolling like it did in the Thunder’s earlier days, and we are confident we can do it.”

DSC_3949  As one of the Thunder’s first employees dating back to 2005, Dave says the public’s positive response has been overwhelming. “Fans that haven’t had tickets in the past few years are now back, and people that didn’t want to give the Thunder a chance are welcoming the Heat with open arms.”

“Want a tour?” Dave asks. As we venture through the newly renovated dressing room and training facility, Dave explains those behind the Stockton Heat have dedicated months in preparation for what he describes as a higher level of play; with a stronger, faster, team right on the cusp of making the National Hockey League.

At the start of 2015, Stockton officially became a “Triple-A” hockey city as fans waved goodbye to their beloved Thunder, a “Double-A” ECHL team, and welcomed Calgary’s AHL franchise for the 2015-2016 season.

As hockey fans know, the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation chose Stockton as their AHL home base after exploring different markets and finding our arena and fans to be the perfect investment. Following a ‘Name the Team’ contest resulting in nearly ten thousand submissions, the Stockton Heat’s logo and colors were debuted in all their glory.

Soon followed a Development Camp with the Calgary Flames in Canada, giving the coaching staff an opportunity to see the progress of young prospects, many of whom will see some time in Stockton over the course of the next few seasons.

DSC_3907Although the Heat’s final roster is not yet decided, Head Coach Ryan Huska has high hopes for our team and its players, and promises fans a fast-paced, entertaining game. “We want our players to develop and improve, be competitive yet play as a team, and of course, make the playoffs and win,” Huska says. As one of the most decorated junior hockey coaches in Canada, Huska plans to use his experience on the ice to inspire, nurture and connect with players. “As a staff we do a great job communicating, and as a coach I aim to meet the needs of each individual player,” he says.

Beyond the ice, Ryan looks forward to both his family and team planting roots here in the Central Valley, and becoming a large part of the community. “One thing hockey players are noted for is giving back to their surroundings.”

Dave circles back to this point as we discuss what he hopes for the team and community, saying, “We want to run a successful business, but almost as important is our impact in the community. We want to give back, make a difference, and be a fun, safe and exciting place for people to come and enjoy themselves… whether they’re a hockey fan or not.”

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Stockton’s First AHL Outdoor Game

That’s right, folks! Our very own team will face the Bakersfield Condors on December 18th at Raley Field in Sacramento. This open-air game is a first for San Joaquin, and part of the Golden State Hockey Rush; an event including minor hockey tournaments, an interactive hockey zone, and more. Be sure to catch this unique game against one of our big-time rivals! Single tickets can be scored through Ticketmaster for as low as $20 begining September 5th.