Back in 1995, six cities were chosen to be part of a hockey movement on the West Coast.
Only two of the original members of the West Coast Hockey League remain in action: The Bakersfield Condors (who started as the Bakersfield Fog) and San Diego Gulls.
Friday, those two teams meet for the first time in the playoffs as members of the American Hockey League when the best-of-seven Pacific Division Finals Calder Cup Playoff Series gets under way at Rabobank Arena.
Hockey has certainly come a long way since the Fog became the city’s first pro hockey team in the fall of 1995. But it quickly became apparent in that first season that the Fog, and its fans, had a distaste for all things Gulls.
Take a poll of Bakersfield players from the WCHL days and ask which team they considered the biggest rival and San Diego will come out on top of the list.
To be fair, it was a one-sided rivalry.
The Fog went 2-30-2 in three regular seasons against the Gulls and 2-6 in a pair of playoff meetings.
The Condors of the WCHL era (1999 through the 2003 season) did not fare much better, going 2-14 in playoffs against the Gulls.
The rivals only played two seasons together in the ECHL and never met in the playoffs at that level as the Gulls ceased operations after the 2005-06 season.
The Gulls came back to life when the AHL moved out west in the 2015-16 season as Anaheim’s affiliate. The Condors, who had been Edmonton’s ECHL affiliate the previous season, became the AHL affiliate for the Oilers and a rivalry was reborn.
Dallas Eakins, who was fired midway through his second season as Edmonton’s head coach in 2015, has been at the helm of the Gulls since their rebirth.
And the Condors have a link to the early days of the rivalry with Oilers interim general manager Keith Gretzky. Gretzky finished his playing career at the International Hockey League level for the Gulls and started his second hockey career as head coach of the Fog.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years since the two teams last met in playoff competition.
It’s about time to heat up that rivalry once more.