BY TAYLOR LEWIS
Reading, Pa. – The Reading Royals—affiliate of the Washington Capitals and the reigning ECHL champions—brought fans, players and the Kelly Cup together Monday night for the team’s annual Town Hall Meeting in Reading, Pa.
Coach Larry Courville, captain Yannick Tifu and former Royal Ryan Cruthers were on hand at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center along with general manager Mark Wallace and the AHL’s Hershey Bears’ broadcaster Scott Stuccio for a panel that answered fan questions and featured Royals’ trivia.
“That’s unbelievable,” Tifu, a Quebec native, said of the turnout. “That’s one reason why I wanted to come down from Montreal, is to see the fans. I was pretty excited.”
The crowd reminisced on the 2013-13 season, which saw the team finish October with a 1-5-0-1 record, then lose only three games through November and December before embarking on a championship run which featured six shutouts by MVP goaltender Riley Gill.
“I wish I could go back to the last minute [of Game 5 of the Kelly Cup Finals] and the 30 seconds after we tore [off] our gloves,” Tifu told the crowd.
Among other topics, Courville answered questions about the summer’s transactions, which include returning forward Julien Cayer and newly-signed defenseman Matt Campanale, who also attended the meeting. Of 12 players signed, seven were on last season’s roster.
“Some of the other coaches in the league kinda expressed that, ‘Be careful,’ of the, I guess they call it the ‘Kelly Cup flu’ kind of thing. In my opinion, if any guy that played for me last year wanted to come back, I wanted him back,” Courville told reporters before the meeting.
For Met Grega, who has held season tickets with the Royals since their inception in 1991, the event is an annual outing. This year it allowed the Reading resident and his wife to catch up with the players that brought them the Royals’ first championship in their 22-year history.
“We watched every away game on television and attended every single game at the Sovereign Center. We felt very proud of them and were happy for them that they were able to accomplish what they did,” said Grega.
For Wallace and Cruthers, it was a chance to re-introduce the Junior Royals (formerly the Berks Bruins), a youth hockey program co-sponsored by Body Zone Sports and Wellness Complex and the Royals. The partnership will connect players with their professional counterparts both on and off the ice. In addition to collaboration on community service projects, the teams will share the same arena.
“That effort between [Body Zone and Cruthers] and with us and being able to play their home games at the Sovereign Center, I think is going to be very exciting for these kids to have an opportunity to be where the pros can be,” said Wallace.
As the team looks to the future, Cayer and his teammates are ready to defend the title that has energized a fanbase. According to Wallace, season ticket sales have increased by four-percent since the team raised the Cup on May 25.
“It’s going to be a good year,” said Cayer, “I think everybody’s excited, the city of Reading is excited to have us back as well. I’m looking forward to the home opener.”