Caps, Bears Keep Connection

You had to figure this one was just a matter of time; it makes way too much sense. The Washington Capitals and Hershey Bears today announced that the affiliation agreement between the two teams has been extended for two more seasons with an option for a third. The two clubs will remain affiliated through the 2009-10 season. If both sides are in agreement, the pact will carry through the 2010-11 season as well.

Both clubs, both cities and both fan bases have benefited greatly from the arrangement in the first three years of its existence. The Caps and Bears linked up immediately after the 2004-05 AHL season had concluded. Hershey missed the Calder Cup playoffs as an affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche that season, and the Caps’ entire season went by the wayside as a result of the lockout that led to the loss of the ’04-05 NHL season.

With no NHL games to watch, Caps general manager George McPhee found himself in Hershey frequently as he scouted the AHL that season. He learned that the Bears and Avs were unlikely to continue their partnership beyond that season, and began exploring the possibility of shifting Washington’s affiliation from Portland to Hershey. In late April of 2005, a press conference/luncheon was held at the Hershey Hotel to announce the partnership between the Caps and Bears.

A year later, the Bears were in the midst of their run to a ninth Calder Cup championship. Led by then-Bears coach Bruce Boudreau, Hershey clinched the championship in Milwaukee in mid-June. In 2007, the Bears returned to the Calder Cup finals before being ousted by the Hamilton Bulldogs.

During the 2007-08 season, the fruits of the affiliation began to ripen in Washington. Thirteen members of the Bears donned a Capitals sweater last season, and the group accounted for 70 of Washington’s total of 238 (29.4%) goals. Hershey made the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

In November, Boudreau was promoted to Washington. He led the Caps to a 37-17-7 record the rest of the way, piloting the team to its first division title in seven years. He is now a finalist for the 2008 Jack Adams Trophy.

Caps fans find it convenient to travel north and watch future Capitals as they develop in a terrific hockey atmosphere that is teeming with tradition. Bears fans also find it feasible to head south and watch their former Hershey heroes playing for the big team in Washington.

For those of us in the Caps’ front office, we’ve been blessed by the opportunity to associate personally and professionally with our counterparts up in Hershey. They’re a great bunch of people, and we’ve had a terrific time with them in and away from arenas all over the continent for the last three years. I eagerly anticipate doing so for the next two years and hopefully much longer.

The Caps and Bears were affiliated from 1977 to 1984, and the Bears won a Calder Cup title during that span (in 1980). The coach of that Calder Cup championship team (Bryan Murray) was promoted to Washington where he led the Caps for the better part of a decade and remains the winningest head coach in franchise history.

Here’s to hoping the current relationship extends well beyond the length of the previous one between the two teams and that it includes multiple championship seasons for both clubs.

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8 Comments on “Caps, Bears Keep Connection”

  1. odessa steps magazine Says:

    yay.

    Had been waiting to send back my season ticket renewal until the announcement was made.

    Looking forward to the influx of new talent next season.

  2. Pat G Says:

    I have been a Hershey Season Ticket Holder for over 35 Years, and am very glad that the Bears will be hooked up with the Caps for at least the next two years. I am very pleased that these two teams will be hooked up.

  3. usiel Says:

    I’ve been to at least one Hershey game the past two seasons and always have a great time. I can’t imagine a more perfect arrangement atm. Geography proximity is huge plus but the Hershey club/fans are just great. For the Capitals I think it is also good to further develop the hard corp fans who will go to Hershey for games and vice versa.

  4. doug Says:

    It will be great to watch some of the Hershey talent next year. The club will be stacked with Caps draft picks. They will be a very young club, but should do well.
    It is such a pleasure to attend games up there and drive around the beautiful countryside.

  5. jen Says:

    Just wanted to say that i live in hershey and love the fact that they have extended their contract with washington we went to 8 caps games last year and plan to attend lots more! GO CAPS AND BEARS!

  6. Ray Reed Says:

    I just want to say that i was excitied to read in the paper this Friday morning that the Caps and Hershey continued their affiliation for two and maybe three years. what a wonderful relationship this is going to be. I am a season ticket holder with the Bears and have going to see the Caps play and I am thrilled to see former Bears players playing with the Caps. Again, thank you for the Caps and the Bears. GO CAPS AND GO HERSHEY BEARS.

  7. Mike L Says:

    The Caps ought to think about a “double header” one Saturday or Sunday in the coming season, with Bears game followed by a Caps game. It’s been done before in other NHL cities, so why not here? 🙂

  8. Carter Myers Says:

    Great to see the stability of the Caps and Bears! I agree that a “doubleheader” with the Bears and Caps, taking advantage of the proximity of both teams, would be a fabulous idea if it is possible! One small correction..Doug Gibson was the player/coach of the Bears when they won the Calder Cup in 1980. I remember attending a double OT win in the Fianls against New Brunswick with my freind, the late Max McNab. That was a game and experience I will always remember and treasure.


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