SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Gulls center Chase de Leo has come home.
The southern California native will suit up for the Gulls this season, with hopes of getting a call up to his favorite team, the Anaheim Ducks, making a dream come true.
“New system, new organization, new teammates, new city," de Leo said. "I haven't really been down to San Diego."
But de Leo can't wait to get started with his new team. He grew up in La Mirada in Orange County and during the off-season, the Winnipeg Jets traded him to the Ducks, the team his parents bought season tickets for and rarely missed a game.
"My parents still have the inaugural season tickets of the pond of the Mighty Ducks (for) the first ever game, so I have that," said de Leo. "I have the Stanley Cup rally towel against the New Jersey Devils, a Wild Wing trophy in my room, a statue, so I've been a huge fan my whole life. Definitely a dream come true to come home."
The 22-year-old compiled 12 goals and 23 assists with Manitoba of the American Hockey League last season and made his NHL debut with the Jets in March, against none other than the Ducks. De Leo says getting a call up to the Ducks this season would mean something special.
"Obviously it's every kid's dream to grow up and play in the NHL if you're playing hockey but to get the chance to do it with your hometown team that you grew up watching and being pissed off as a fan or happy when they won, it's fun to be on the other side of the glass and hopefully I get a chance to do that," de Leo said.
Until then, he will play for the Gulls, and de Leo says he hopes to leave his impression with the San Diego fans this season by working hard and competing every day.
"I think now it's my fourth year so I'll have more of a leadership role," he said. "I'm not much of a talker so I try to just let my action and my play lead by example but I'm excited to learn more about the guys. Like I said, it's a new team so we've got to grow together and hopefully win together."
"He's been a great, great surprise," said head coach Dallas Eakins. "A lot of times when you get a player from another organization, you're not sure what you're getting but he's come right in here and is earning everything that he's getting."