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Extensions All Around For the Hershey Bears (Affiliations, Contracts, Families!)
Today, the Washington Capitals announced that they will be continuing their relationship with the Hershey Bears for two more seasons. A few hours later, the Hershey Bears announced that Head Coach Mark French and Assistant Coach Troy Mann have extended their relationship with the team for another year as well.
This is fantastic news on a number of levels. On the practical (and self-serving) front, there’s the fact that I had no particular desire to drive down to Norfolk on any kind of regular basis (the Norfolk Admirals were the Capitals’ other potential AHL affiliate for next season. The current Eastern Conference Champions are on the market for a new partner since Tampa Bay Lightning has opted to pick up the Syracuse Crunch instead).
On the personnel front, French and Mann are both solid investments for the Bears. This past spring, they made the most of the team they had to work with – on occasion icing rookies for up to fifty percent of their lineup due to a combination of injuries and call-ups – and still managed to get the Bears into the playoffs.
Change is a part of hockey, and a necessary element of the business side of the sport. It affects all levels of the professional game – the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers are now the Winnipeg Jets, the ECHL’s Chicago Express closed their doors after just a single year in the league, and the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms are now the Adirondack Phantoms (and are likely to be moving again in the near future). But all the same, it can be hard to watch when it’s your team(s) caught in the midst of the shuffle.
When Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin joined the Capitals organization, getting sent down meant a flight to Portland, ME. Since the summer of 2006, it’s meant a two hour drive to Hershey, and both teams have benefited from the short commute and shared fanbase. Here at Capitals Outsider, we’re glad to see the relationship continue (Note: Per Tim Leone of the Patriot-News, the 2013-14 season is an option year, not a fully guaranteed affiliation).
While not technically team news, CO would also like to congratulate Graham and Cristina Mink on the birth of their daughter Livia. Graham Mink has played three separate stretches with the Bears, the most recent being this past season. His wife was responsible for organizing this year’s Hershey Bears Cookbook.