The first time I met Stutts we sat and chatted about hockey the Kings’ affiliate’s move to Ontario and the warmer weather. In the stands just outside the Reign locker room was where “Bus Texts with Stothers” became a thing. I knew I wouldn’t be traveling to away games and Stutts said he hated talking on the phone after games, so I asked if texts would be a better option for him. It was off and running from there.
I accepted the Ontario Reign Insider job in the fall before their first AHL season. I was waiting for the Dodger Stadium shuttle at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles when I received a call from Jon Rosen with the offer. I celebrated by eating a Fritos and chili cheese hot dog.
That same spot was where Stutts and I first chatted was where I ended up watching most practices. Where I was chirped at by Nic Dowd and always given a friendly wave from assistant Chris Hajt (who I wish the very, very best of luck in Buffalo).
After two seasons I’ve made the very difficult decision to surrender my press box post at Citizens Business Bank Arena. It’s been an amazing, memorable ride.
The Reign seemed unbeatable in Season One. Really, the season was a whirlwind and the hype of the team’s move to Ontario was evident. There were nights where Kevin Gravel and Co. would answer questions for over 10 minutes. Yep, there were a lot of late nights in the press box.
Season Two brought the enigmas: Goalie coach Dusty Imoo backed up his son Jonah in his first AHL start. The Reign played through the RAIN against Bakersfield in a complete downpour. Ultimately the season ended with another enigma as Jack Campbell couldn’t start, Jeff Zatkoff was hurt in warmups and the team turned to third-stringer Jack Flinn before Campbell came on in relief. Storylines galore.
Jesse Cohen of All The Kings Men Podcast fame once asked me what it was like for me when Ontario stars earned callups. I was surprised by the question but my honest answer was that it really does humble you when you see anyone fulfill their dream – no matter who they are or what field you’re in or they’re in. We’re all human. Stutts telling me he sent Mike Mersch a “thumbs up” emoji when he earned his call-up to the Kings was a classic moment.
I must admit I won’t miss the two-hour plus drives from my full-time job at FOX Sports in Century City to Ontario on Friday nights, trusting Waze to take me on unfamiliar side streets to shave off 10 minutes.
The moments that made me most proud of the work I had done were when I was contacted by the family or friends of players over Twitter or stopped in person right before heading back up to the elevators after post-game interviews. This level of hockey is special in the way that there’s no NHL Network equivalent and what was made apparent was a lot of what I did helped these loved ones stay connected. I took great pride in that.
I have to thank Jon Rosen for the opportunity and all his help and advice along the way.
I have to thank Joey Z for being a reliable teammate day in and day out and for the laughs.
I have to thank the entire Kings and Reign staff for being so accommodating and welcoming during it all. Thanks also to the players for their time and patience.
Thanks to Stutts for all the time and the texts and the always warm, “Lindsay, what could you ask me today that’s changed since last night?”
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