The word “hero” denotes many things. There are celebrated war heroes, of course. Others may hold policemen and firemen in high esteem, as well as educators, medical professionals, politicians, entertainment and sports personalities.
To some, parents are personal heroes.
The heroes are thus many as we emerge from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been a war against an unseen enemy and one that has taken the might of everyone in every community to win.
The San Diego Gulls American Hockey League club will honor many of these deserving men and women this weekend during a pair of home games at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
Heroes Night will take place Friday, followed by Military Appreciation Night on Saturday.
Both games face off at 7 p.m.
Though the Gulls were unable to play in front of home fans during the 2020-21 season because of closures necessitated by pandemic protocols, the team remained active in the community in a vital support role, especially in regard to frontline workers.
The Gulls were among the first sports organizations to lend support to those in need.
During the first week in April 2020, the Gulls provided 775 individually packaged meals from five restaurants to five San Diego area hospitals in appreciation to local doctors, nurses and hospital personnel caring for the community in the early stages of the pandemic.
The effort was funded by the San Diego Gulls Foundation and donations by the team’s players.
The San Diego Gulls Foundation is a philanthropic organization that operates year-round.
Rockin’ Baja Lobster, a founding partner with the Gulls since the inaugural 2015-16 season, was able to prepare and deliver more than 150 lunches to Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista.
Adrian Hinojosa, who serves as director of operations for each of the restaurant’s three locations throughout the county, said it meant “the world for us to be able to provide meals to health care workers” at such a critical time.
“We love to provide for the community and be there for them,” Hinojosa said. “We’ve been in San Diego for 30 years and providing food for the community is who we are.”
The community remains connected to the Gulls as evidenced by the sellout crowd of 12,920 that greeted the team during its home opener on Oct. 22.
Bonita Vista High School roller hockey coach Keith Quigley is among those in the local hockey community who is appreciative of pro hockey’s return to the region.
“It’s great to see that the San Diego Gulls are back and playing in front of that huge hometown crowd the other night,” said Quigley, who also coaches boys lacrosse and girls tennis at Olympian High School. “I always tell my Bonita Vista High school hockey players to watch hockey as much as possible. Attend a Gulls game. You can learn so much just from watching how they play. And we’re lucky to have a team like the Gulls in town, so we definitely want to support them.”
On Friday, the Gulls will recognize San Diego essential workers who worked, and are still working, tirelessly to help keep our communities healthy and safe.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria will be on site as part of a pre-game ceremony on Friday. Among those who will honored are Gulls Hometown Heroes Michael Shaw (executive director of Southern California Youth Emergency Services), Jenée Peevy (manager of social work services for the San Diego County Office of Education) and Audrey Stratton (clinic supervisor and community outreach for the Feral Cat Coalition.)
Gloria will be on hand to thank frontline workers, with special recognition of local groups in attendance Big Table San Diego, Sharp HealthCare, San Diego Foundation and the San Diego County Office of Education 2021 Teachers of the Year, including Laura Reyes, Xye Sanders, Tiffany Jokerst (West Hills High School) and Jackie Jourdane (San Altos Elementary, Lemon Grove).
“During this unprecedented time, the San Diego Gulls are looking for ways to support our local community,” the AHL team said in a statement to the media. “We’re appreciative and thankful for the care all first responders provide to our community.”
The Gulls will wear patriotic-themed uniforms on Saturday; the first 8,000 fans in attendance will receive a free USA hat. Game-worn jerseys will be raffled off starting at 6 p.m. through the end of the second period. All proceeds raised by the San Diego Gulls Foundation via the auction and raffles will be donated to the Armed Services YMCA.
The Gulls will also wear patriotic-themed uniforms for their upcoming Nov. 10 game against the Henderson Silver Knights.
The Gulls picked up their first win of the 2021-22 season Oct. 29 in Tucson with a 5-1 victory over the host Roadrunners. The local skaters will be looking to add to that tally in front of large crowds this weekend.
The Gulls rallied from a 1-0 deficit with five unanswered goals to score their first win of the season. Alex Limoges earned first star of the game honors with two goals while goaltender Lukas Dostal received the second star award after stopping 24 of 25 shots. The Gulls swept the three-star awards as Bryce Kindopp picked up third star honors with two assists.
The Gulls were not as fortune in the rematch in Tucson the following night as the Roadrunners prevailed, 6-4, by jumping out to an early 3-0 lead. Danny O’Regan paced the visitors with a goal and assist while Hunter Drew, Mason McTavish and Brendan Guhle all picked up goals.
Heading into Friday’s game, Jacob Perreault tops the Gulls with six points on two goals and four assists in five game appearances. He’s followed on the scoresheet by O’Regan (one goal, three assists) and Brogan Rafferty (one goal, three assists), both with four points. Limoges is the top rookie on the team with three goals.
San Diego will look to make up some lost ground after sinking to the bottom of the Pacific Division standings with a 1-4 record (0.200 winning percentage). Friday’s opponent, the Bakersfield Condors, is 4-3 through seven games (0.571 winning percentage) while the Colorado Eagles, Saturday’s opponent, enters the weekend with a 3-5-0-1 record (0.389 winning percentage) in nine trips to the ice.
The Ontario Reign (7-0-0-1, 0.938 winning percentage) has the best record among the nine Pacific Division teams, followed by the Stockton Heat (5-0-1, 0.917 winning percentage).