The Reading Royals are a professional ice hockey team that currently plays in the ECHL. The team participates in the North Division of the ECHL's Eastern Conference. The Royals play their home games at the Santander Arena located in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania. The Royals colors are purple, black, silver, and white. Since 2001, the Royals have ranked among ECHL leaders in regular season attendance. On March 25, 2006, against the Trenton Titans, the Royals reached their one millionth fan in attendance. The Royals hosted two ECHL All-Star Games; one in 2005 and one in 2009.
|2017–18 ECHL season|
|Home arena||Santander Arena|
|Colors||Purple, black, silver, white
|Owner(s)||Jack D. Gulati|
|Head coach||Kirk MacDonald|
|Affiliates||Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
|Division Championships||4 (2004–05, 2010–11, 2012–13, 2013–14)|
|Conference Championships||1 (2012–13)|
|Kelly Cups||1 (2012–13)|
Columbus Chill and Kings eraEdit
The Reading Royals were founded in 1991 as the Columbus Chill. David Paitson was team's first president and general manager while former NHL player Terry Ruskowski was the head coach, started the team with a goal of introducing new audiences to the sport of ice hockey and building a strong fan base. The two were successful with the help of an extensive marketing plan. The Chill's 83-game sellout streak beginning in early January 1992 still stands as a minor league hockey record today. It would take the team two seasons to reach the playoffs, doing so in 1994 under coach Ruskowski. The Chill would go on to win two conference championships and make the playoffs for five of the eight seasons. The Chill were a key part of the growth of hockey in Columbus, Ohio, and paved the way for the National Hockey League expansion Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000.
The Chill then suspended operations for in 1999 to make room for the Blue Jackets. The Chill franchise relocated during their inactive two year status to their present location in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania, for the 2001–02 season as the Reading Royals. When the franchise returned to active status in the ECHL, they became the affiliate of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. At the time, the Royals were partially owned by the same owners of the Kings and Monarchs, the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). The rest of the ownership was by Santander Arena management, SMG.
The Royals made their first trip to the Kelly Cup playoffs in 2004 in their third season, winning the North Division playoff championship under head coach Derek Clancey. In the next season, they became the North Division regular season champions, only to lose to the eventual Kelly Cup champion Trenton Titans in the North Division Finals.
Under coach Karl Taylor from 2005 to 2008, the Royals had generally mediocre performance in regular season performances. In the 2007–08 season, skaters Dany Roussin and Brock Hooton enjoyed some fame in Reading due to their "goal-a-game" nature for much of the season, while tough-guys Steven Later and Malcolm MacMillan were among league leaders in penalty minutes. After a strong finish to the regular season, Taylor led the team to the North Division Finals where their tour ended in a seven-game battle with the Cincinnati Cyclones. The Cyclones continued on to sweep past other teams to win the Kelly Cup, but the Royals were the only team to take them to seven games in the playoffs.
Some better-known players during this era who played for the Royals include Los Angeles Kings goaltenders Barry Brust, Jonathan Quick, and Yutaka Fukufuji; Phoenix Coyotes winger Ryan Flinn; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer; and Anaheim Ducks winger George Parros, who was the first Royal to appear in the Stanley Cup finals. Veteran Larry Courville and former head coach Derek Clancey have also contributed to the Royals organization.
New affiliations and the Courville eraEdit
The 2007–08 season would be Karl Taylor's last with the Royals organization. In late June 2008, general manager Gordon Kaye announced that Taylor would leave Reading to serve as coach for the AEG's newly acquired ECHL franchise, the Ontario Reign. The new team would also become the primary affiliate for AEG's Kings and Monarchs. On July 9, 2008, the Royals became the affiliate of the Boston Bruins and a secondary affiliate for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 2008–09 season. The Royals continued to wear their colors of purple, black, and silver. The Santander Arena and the city of Reading, Pennsylvania, were also named the hosts of the 2009 All-Star Game and Skills Challenge. On July 24, 2008, Reading announced that Jason Nobili would be head coach for the 2008–09 season. Unfortunately, Nobili was unable to coax much from the team and was dismissed by Kaye on January 6, 2009, with the team in last place overall in the ECHL. Larry Courville was named as interim coach for the remainder of the season.
On April 4, 2009, general manager Gordon Kaye announced that Courville would return for the 2009–10 season as full-time head coach. On August 4, 2009, The Royals announced it renewed their affiliations with the Bruins and Maple Leafs and the AHL's Toronto Marlies.
In 2011, AEG sold off its shares of the Royals to the Berks County Convention Center Authority.
On July 9, 2012, the Royals became the affiliate of the Washington Capitals. At the end of their first season with the Capitals, the Royals won the 2013 Kelly Cup championship by defeating the Stockton Thunder four-games-to-one.
In 2014, Jack Gulati purchased all shares of the ownership of the Royals from SMG and BCCCA. In June 2014, the Philadelphia Flyers announced a two-year affiliation agreement with the Royals, giving the Flyers an entirely Pennsylvania based minor league system for the first time since 1997–98. The Flyers and Royals agreed to a multi-year affiliation extension in 2016.
During his eighth full season as head coach, Courville announced he would be stepping down at the end of the 2016–17 season. However, one day after qualifying for the 2017 playoffs, he was fired by the Royals and replaced by assistant Kirk MacDonald on an interim basis. The interim tag was removed from MacDonald a few weeks after the Royals were eliminated in the first round of the 2017 playoffs.
The Johnstown Chiefs (now the Greenville Swamp Rabbits) were the Royals' cross-state main rival. The Royals have a current rivalry with the Wheeling Nailers (Penguins affiliate) and formerly with the Elmira Jackals and Trenton Titans.
- "Reading Royals purchased by Stokesay owner". Reading Eagle. February 16, 2014.
- "Columbus Hockey History". 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
- "Reading could have a new affiliate in ’08-09". Reading Eagle. December 16, 2007.
- "Larry Courville Named Royals' Head Coach". Reading Royals. 2009-04-04. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
- "Royals affiliate with Toronto and Boston". Reading Royals. 2009-08-04. Retrieved 2010-01-02.
- "BCCCA to own half of the Reading Royals". Pro Hockey News. May 24, 2011.
- "Capitals announce ECHL affiliation with Reading Royals". Washington Post. 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
- "Flyers announce affiliation with Reading Royals of the ECHL". Philadelphia Flyers. 2014-06-06. Retrieved 2014-06-06.
- "Royals Renew Affiliation Agreement with Philadelphia Flyers". OurSports Central. July 10, 2016.
- "Reading Royals fire Larry Courville as head coach". Reading Eagle. April 3, 2017.
- "ROYALS NAME KIRK MACDONALD AS HEAD COACH/DIRECTOR OF HOCKEY OPERATIONS". ECHL. May 24, 2017.
- "Reading Royals current roster". Reading Royals. 2016-12-10. Retrieved 2016-12-10.