Western Hockey League (1966-1974)
Born: 1966 – WHL expansion franchise
Folded: June 1974
Arena: San Diego Sports Arena
Owner: Bob Breitbard
Lester Patrick Cup Championships: None
The San Diego Gulls were a popular entry in the minor Western Hockey League in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The club was the brainchild of veteran San Diego sports booster Bob Breitbard, who oversaw construction of the San Diego Sports Arena in 1966 and owned both of its major tenants: the Gulls and the NBA’s San Diego Rockets.
Tax pressures on the Arena overtook Breitbard in 1971, forcing him to sell off the Rockets basketball team to Houston interests and relinquish control of the Arena to Canadian businessman Peter Graham. But Breitbard held onto the Gulls for several more seasons and continued to nurture dreams of attracting a National Hockey League expansion franchise to San Diego. Meanwhile, the Gulls continued to pull strong crowds throughout the early Seventies, both for WHL play and for a pair of high profile international exhibitions against the Soviet National Team.
The death knell for the San Diego Gulls WHL franchise rang in the spring of 1974. The National Hockey League went to war with the upstart World Hockey Association over players and expansion markets. The NHL awarded expansion franchises to long-time WHL cities Denver and Seattle. Arena owner Peter Graham served an eviction notice on the Gulls to make way for the relocating Jersey Knights of the WHA. Without a building or a viable league to play in, the Gulls called it quits in June 1974.
The “Gulls” nickname has subsequently been revived by three different San Diego minor league hockey franchises. Most recently, the American Hockey League’s San Diego Gulls opened for business in the fall of 2015.
San Diego Gulls Programs
Gulls founder Bob Breitbard passed away on May 17, 2010 at the age of 91. San Diego Union-Tribune obit.
SanDiegoGulls.org – excellent fan history site