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This week in California history, in 1906, the Pacific Fruit Express was formed. Jointly owned by the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads, the Express went on to become one of the largest railroad refrigerator car companies in the world. The firm pioneered the first fast freight system to ship California produce eastward and at it’s peak in the 1930s, it had a fleet of more than 40,000 cars.


Los Angeles Kings at Columbus Blue Jackets, 4:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: LAK 17-8-1 (1st in the Pacific); CBJ 11-16-1 (8th in the Metropolitan)

Leading Scorers: Jeff Carter (10G, 15A); Scott Hartnell (10G, 9A)

Tonight marks the start of a six game road trip for the Kings and what better way to start it off then with Gaborik and Carter returning to Columbus. Since being traded from the Blue Jackets Carter has three goals and 1 assist in 4 games at Nationwide Area. Believe it or not, Carter is actually still tied for third in all-time Blue Jackets hat tricks with two. As for the other Columbus expat, this will be his second trip back since being dealt during the 2013-14 season. Gaborik has upped his scoring tempo as of late and will look to continue the trend tonight.

LA Kings Jeff Carter takes down Blue Jackets

Prediction: Los Angeles by 2

Arizona Coyotes at St. Louis Blues, 5:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: ARI 13-13-1 (4th in the Pacific); STL 15-8-4 (2nd in the Central)

Leading Scorers: Max Domi (10G, 13A); Vladimir Tarasenko (15G, 11A)

Don’t look now, but after more than a third of the way into the season, the Coyotes are still legitimately jockeying for a divisional playoff spot. At this time last year,  six of the eight teams in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference maintained positioning and qualified for the postseason. Conversely, in the West, just one team (sorry Kings fans) failed to keep to pace and lost their playoff position. There’s still just under sixty games to be played, meaning there’s a lot of hockey left and plenty of things can happen, but for now the sun is shining in the desert. It would be fantastic to look back on the Coyotes in the offseason and wax poetic about Maxi Domi winning the Calder, John Scott being named an All-Star, and Arizona’s stunning sweep of San Jose in the first round.

Prediction: St. Louis by 1

San Jose Sharks at Calgary Flames, 6:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: SJS 14-12-0 (2nd in the Pacific); CGY 10-14-2 (7th in the Pacific)

Leading Scorers: Joe Pavelski (12G, 13A); Johnny Gaudrea (9G, 17A)

There’s not much of a narrative to be crafted here. San Jose has a mediocre record against the Flames in Calgary and an equally bland record at home against the southern Alberta team. In their last ten meetings at the Saddledome, the Sharks have gone 5-3-2. The highlight this evening will arguably be watching San Jose’s premier disher, Joe Thornton, go up against rising star Johnny Gaudreau. The Flames leading scorer has not missed a step in his sophomore campaign, in fact, at this time last year he had 5 goals and 16 assists. Despite the fact that we are paying homage to the Pacific Fruit Express today, please promise us that you will not refer to any of the assists scored by Thornton and Gaudreau as apples.

Nope…just nope.

Prediction: San Jose by 1

Last Minute of Play

The antecedents of refrigerated railcars can be traced back to Chicago in the late nineteenth century. In order to overcome the constraints of seasonal travel, meat packers from the Windy City began using stored winter ice, cut from nearby bodies of water, to ship pork during the summer. The techniques pioneered in the Midwest allowed companies like the Pacific Fruit Express to expand their markets and reach consumers thousands of miles away. With the advent of new technology such as diesel-electric refrigeration systems, ice usage gradually declined, but the Express continued to lead the way. The company’s addition of one thousand new mechanically chilled cars in 1964 brought it’s fleet up to 4,719 which reportedly made up 50% of the total number of refrigeration cars on tracks across the United States.

While doing some research for this post, I communicated with historian Jonathan Rees, author of Refrigerator Nation. Dr. Rees was kind enough to provide some interesting tidbits and useful sources. In turn, I attempted to incite a little Professor vs. Professor action in the lead up to the Kings-Blue Jackets game, but my efforts were dashed.

The Broncos did end up winning their next game, but when you have an oracle on staff, a vague football prediction will hardly elicit much praise. For as you all know, we here at the Royal Half only kneel before #TRHBaby, whose prophetic powers are both awe inspiring and terrifying. She is the only one here deserving of the title “Professor” and is an incredible 20-6 heading into tonight’s Kings game.


Professor Prediction Record: 12-13

Further Reading

Richard J. Orsi, Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930 (2007)

Jonathan Rees, Refrigerator Nation: A History of Ice, Appliances, and Enterprise in America (2013)

*Check back in on December 22nd as we look back on California preservationist John Muir and the final set of Pacific Division games before the holiday break.

Professor Mike hails from Sudbury, Ontario (4 hours north of Toronto) a place that has more Kings connections than you’d think. The city’s northern boundary reaches as far as the community of Levack, hometown of Kings great Dave Taylor. As a child, Mike once met Taylor in a gravel pit, as you can imagine, he was thoroughly impressed. He has also spent more than a few bleary-eyed nights at the Beef n Bird, a tavern founded by Justin Williams’ great uncle Jerry Toppazzini. Mike’s only wish is that one day people will call him “the Professor” with the same adoration bestowed upon Ben Scrivens. You can follow Mike Commito on Twitter @MikeCommito.