ONTARIO—It has been the considered opinion in This Space for years that youth hockey in Southern California may be the best kept secret around.
The age group teams, the Junior Kings and Junior Ducks clubs (and Junior Reign, locally), the high school hockey leagues run by the area’s NHL clubs … they produce talent.
Yet another example of SoCal’s — and specifically the IE’s — hockey influence was in net Wednesday night for the Rockford IceHogs, the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, in their 5-2 victory over the Reign. Collin Delia, a 23-year-old from Rancho Cucamonga, is a first-year pro who has split this season between Rockford and the ECHL’s Indianapolis Fuel, after three years playing for Merrimack College in Hockey East.
Before Merrimack he’d played two seasons with the Amarillo Bulls in the North American Hockey League. And his path to reach that point? Let’s just call it a lot of miles on a lot of different freeways.
“Anaheim Ice with the Junior Ducks; I played Peewee B (classification),” he recalled Wednesday morning. “That was my first year, and then I just skipped around. I went to the Inland Valley Wild, and they were in Riverside. I think they’re now the Junior Reign.
“And then I played with the Stars and the Wave, the California Wave, and in Artesia and Simi Valley with the SoCal Titans. So I’ve literally been all over the place.”