(Photo by Caps Outsider) Washington area sports fans are walking pretty tall...
All the Best, Stingrays. Signed, the Caps. (PS: Hello, Reading!)
For the past eight seasons (2004-Present), the Washington Capitals & Hershey Bears have shared an affiliation with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. They were the first NHL affiliate for the franchise, which is celebrating its 20th season this year. As of this afternoon, the two sides are going their separate ways. Instead, the Caps and Bears will be sending down and calling up from the Reading Royals, just an hour or so up route 422 or 76 from Hershey.
During their tenure as the Caps ECHL affiliate, the Stingrays served as an important part of the Caps development pipeline. Their most recent influence can be found amongst the goaltenders – both members of the current goaltending duo in Washington (Braden Holtby & Michal Neuvirth) started their professional careers in Charleston, as did future-Bears goalie Philipp Grubauer. They’ve also proven to be a strong independent franchise, maintaining a vibrant fanbase in a region that isn’t known for its ice hockey.
They’ve been the center of their fair share of shenanigans in the last twelve months, from making Puck Daddy with a ridiculous goal scored against to being on the wrong end of the Capitals epic Goalie Shuffle (Repeatedly). It’s definitely been an interesting ride.
There’s an argument of convenience to be made for shifting ties to the Royals (who served as affiliate for both the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs during 2011-2), but it’s hard to see the Stingrays Era come to an end on our end – possibly because you never forget your first.
Here at Capitals Outsider, we look forward to working with the Royals – the future is always a gloriously undiscovered country – but we’ll always remember our time with the ‘Rays fondly. Unless we meet in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, we wish them the best of luck next season.