The Salt Lake Golden Eagles kick off their 22nd season tonight when they face the first-year San Diego Gulls at 8:30 p.m. (MDT) in the Sports Arena.

The Gulls are one of the International Hockey League's new teams, along with the Kansas City Blades and the Albany Choppers. Actually, the Gulls aren't brand new. There was a San Diego Gull hockey franchise in the old Western Hockey League in the early 1970s and later in the World Hockey Asociation.Coach Bobby Francis doesn't know what to expect from the Gulls this weekend (the two teams square off again Saturday night).

"It's tough to evaluate them," he said. "I do know they have some experienced skill people."

Francis is more concerned with his own crew, which has just been practicing together for less than a week.

"We have a good nucleus, but it's going to take the players time to come together. It won't be fair to evaulate us for a couple of weeks."

The Eagle roster includes eight first-year players and two players who played for other IHL teams last year.

Four Eagle players are back for their fourth year - Martin Simard, Rich Chernomaz, Randy Bucyk and Marc Bureau. Other experienced Salt Lake players include defenseman Brian Glynn, Kevin Grant, Rick Lessard and goalies Steve Guenette and Wayne Cowley.

After the two weekend games, the Eagles will open their home season Wednesday against the Gulls.

All Eagle games will be broadcast on KMGR (1230-AM) and KLO (1430-AM).