|2018–19 ECHL season|
|Home arena||Santander Arena|
|Colors||Purple, black, silver, white|
|Owner(s)||Jack D. Gulati|
|General manager||David Farrar|
|Head coach||Kirk MacDonald|
|Affiliates||Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)|
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
|Division Championships||4 (2004–05, 2010–11, 2012–13, 2013–14)|
|Conference Championships||1 (2012–13)|
|Kelly Cups||1 (2012–13)|
The Reading Royals are a professional ice hockey team that currently plays in the ECHL. The team participates in the North Division of the ECHL's Eastern Conference. The Royals play their home games at the Santander Arena located in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania. The Royals colors are purple, black, silver, and white. Since 2001, the Royals have ranked among ECHL leaders in regular season attendance. On March 25, 2006, against the Trenton Titans, the Royals reached their one millionth fan in attendance. The Royals hosted two ECHL All-Star Games; one in 2005 and one in 2009.
Columbus Chill and Kings era
The Reading Royals were founded in 1991 as the Columbus Chill. David Paitson was team's first president and general manager while former NHL player Terry Ruskowski was the head coach, started the team with a goal of introducing new audiences to the sport of ice hockey and building a strong fan base. The two were successful with the help of an extensive marketing plan. The Chill's 83-game sellout streak beginning in early January 1992 still stands as a minor league hockey record today. It would take the team two seasons to reach the playoffs, doing so in 1994 under coach Ruskowski. The Chill would go on to win two conference championships and make the playoffs for five of the eight seasons. The Chill were a key part of the growth of hockey in Columbus, Ohio, and paved the way for the National Hockey League expansion Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000.
The Chill then suspended operations for in 1999 to make room for the Blue Jackets. The Chill franchise relocated during their inactive two year status to their present location in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania, for the 2001–02 season as the Reading Royals. When the franchise returned to active status in the ECHL, they became the affiliate of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. At the time, the Royals were partially owned by the same owners of the Kings and Monarchs, the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). The rest of the ownership was by Santander Arena management, SMG.
The Royals made their first trip to the Kelly Cup playoffs in 2004 in their third season, winning the North Division playoff championship under head coach Derek Clancey. In the next season, they became the North Division regular season champions, only to lose to the eventual Kelly Cup champion Trenton Titans in the North Division Finals.
Under coach Karl Taylor from 2005 to 2008, the Royals had generally mediocre performance in regular season performances. In the 2007–08 season, skaters Dany Roussin and Brock Hooton enjoyed some fame in Reading due to their "goal-a-game" nature for much of the season, while tough-guys Steven Later and Malcolm MacMillan were among league leaders in penalty minutes. After a strong finish to the regular season, Taylor led the team to the North Division Finals where their tour ended in a seven-game battle with the Cincinnati Cyclones. The Cyclones continued on to sweep past other teams to win the Kelly Cup, but the Royals were the only team to take them to seven games in the playoffs.
Some better-known players during this era who played for the Royals include Los Angeles Kings goaltenders Barry Brust, Jonathan Quick, and Yutaka Fukufuji; Phoenix Coyotes winger Ryan Flinn; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer; and Anaheim Ducks winger George Parros, who was the first Royal to appear in the Stanley Cup finals. Veteran Larry Courville and former head coach Derek Clancey have also contributed to the Royals organization.
New affiliations and the Courville era
The 2007–08 season would be Karl Taylor's last with the Royals organization. In late June 2008, general manager Gordon Kaye announced that Taylor would leave Reading to serve as coach for the AEG's newly acquired ECHL franchise, the Ontario Reign. The new team would also become the primary affiliate for AEG's Kings and Monarchs. On July 9, 2008, the Royals became the affiliate of the Boston Bruins and a secondary affiliate for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 2008–09 season. The Royals continued to wear their colors of purple, black, and silver. The Santander Arena and the city of Reading, Pennsylvania, were also named the hosts of the 2009 All-Star Game and Skills Challenge. On July 24, 2008, Reading announced that Jason Nobili would be head coach for the 2008–09 season. Unfortunately, Nobili was unable to coax much from the team and was dismissed by Kaye on January 6, 2009, with the team in last place overall in the ECHL. Larry Courville was named as interim coach for the remainder of the season.
On April 4, 2009, general manager Gordon Kaye announced that Courville would return for the 2009–10 season as full-time head coach. On August 4, 2009, The Royals announced it renewed their affiliations with the Bruins and Maple Leafs and the AHL's Toronto Marlies.
In 2011, AEG sold off its shares of the Royals to the Berks County Convention Center Authority (BCCCA).
On July 9, 2012, the Royals became the affiliate of the Washington Capitals. At the end of their first season with the Capitals, the Royals won the 2013 Kelly Cup championship by defeating the Stockton Thunder four-games-to-one.
The Royals won the 2013 Kelly Cup by defeating the Stockton Thunder in five games. Captain Yannick Tifu and played in every regular season and postseason game, scoring a game-winning goal in the final minutes of game four of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cincinnati Cyclones. Reading won the first three games of the 2013 Kelly Cup Finals against the Stockton Thunder. On May 25, 2013, goaltender Riley Gill had a 29-save shutout and the Royals defeated the Thunder 6–0 to claim the team's first Kelly Cup. Riley Gill was named the MVP for the playoffs with a 13–4–0 record, a 1.91 a goals against average, a .930 save percentage, and four shutouts.
In 2014, Jack Gulati purchased all shares of the ownership of the Royals from SMG and BCCCA. In June 2014, the Philadelphia Flyers announced a two-year affiliation agreement with the Royals, giving the Flyers an entirely Pennsylvania based minor league system for the first time since 1997–98. The Flyers and Royals agreed to a multi-year affiliation extension in 2016.
During his eighth full season as head coach, Courville announced he would be stepping down at the end of the 2016–17 season. However, one day after qualifying for the 2017 playoffs, he was fired by the Royals and replaced by assistant Kirk MacDonald on an interim basis. The interim tag was removed from MacDonald a few weeks after the Royals were eliminated in the first round of the 2017 playoffs.
2017–present: Kirk MacDonald era
The Royals' first season under Kirk MacDonald resulted in a third place finish in the North Division with a 39–24–9–0 record and 87 points. Reading finished two points behind the Adirondack Thunder for first place. The Manchester Monarchs earned 88 points in the regular season and then swept the Royals in the North Division semifinals. The Monarchs won the first two games of the series in double overtime despite goaltender John Muse making 54 saves in game one and 53 in game two. In game three, Muse registered 52 saves, giving the three-highest postseason save performances from a Reading netminder in a four-day span. Forward Matt Willows lead the team with 32 goals and 74 points before he announced his retirement after the season. Muse split the season between Reading and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL and tied for a league-high .931 save percentage. The Royals took 658 penalty minutes, the fewest in ECHL history.
During the 2018–19 season, the Royals' owner Jack Gulati agreed to sell the team back to the Berks County Convention Center Authority (BCCCA), the previous ownership and the owners of Santander Arena, at the end of the season.
The Johnstown Chiefs (now the Greenville Swamp Rabbits) were the Royals' cross-state main rival. The Royals have a current rivalry with the Wheeling Nailers (Penguins affiliate) and formerly with the Elmira Jackals and Trenton Titans.
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- "Reading Royals fire Larry Courville as head coach". Reading Eagle. April 3, 2017.
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- "Reading Royals will remain in Reading after team is sold". WFMZ. January 23, 2019.
- "Reading Royals current roster". Reading Royals. 2016-12-10. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
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