Strong Relationship Fuels Caps, Stingrays Partnership

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Posted July 20, 2020

Braden Holtby is one of the 13 Stingrays alumni to play in Washington

The Washington Capitals and South Carolina Stingrays extended their affiliation for at least another three years on Thursday. The Caps are in their second stint as the parent club of the Rays with the first being from 2004-2012. After a two-year stint with the Reading Royals as the ECHL affiliate, the Caps returned to the Rays in 2014 and have been the affiliate since.

It’s this decade-old relationship that has provided such a strong affiliation in the eyes of Stingrays president Rob Concannon, who spoke to Capitals Outsider in April.

“I think the Stingrays play a role in the relationship between Hershey and the Caps. It varies every single year. We’re proud and we’re happy to have been a part of it for 14 years. What it allows I think for players is an opportunity to get their feet wet playing pro hockey. Or get a little more experience.”

 

Stingrays had Caps themed jerseys in the 2016-17 season

In the 2016-17 season, a year in which the Stingrays made it to the Kelly Cup Final, the team aligned itself with the Caps’ brand. After receiving permission from the Caps and the NHL, the team went with a new home jersey that resembled the Caps’.

“Those decisions with the jerseys to kind of have the colors resemble the Caps’ is something we came up with,” Concannon said. “We wanted to kind of see if we could rally our fans and the Caps fans around the fact that they have a minor league affiliation in Charleston South Carolina. The NHL and the Caps gave us permission to use those markings to a certain degree.

“We’re going to be doing something similar for the upcoming season. We’ve changed our dark jersey. We’re probably going to bring that out, or unveil it later this summer. It will be similar to what we did [in 16-17].”

Another piece that makes the affiliation so successful is that it because it has lasted for so long, people grow and move up. Over the years, there have been 13 former Stingrays that have played in Washington. Including Braden Holtby, Pheonix Copley, Philipp Grubauer and Tyler Lewington. 

“It’s a testament to all three organizations. I think whenever you’re coming out of college or juniors, your goal is to play in the NHL. Sometimes guys need a little time in the ECHL or the AHL. Anytime that we’re able to work with, or have the opportunity to develop somebody that could potentially be playing in the NHL someday, that excites our coaches,” Concannon said.  “It allows [the player] the opportunity to grow as a hockey player and mature and learn the ropes of being a pro hockey player. It’s a lot different than college. It’s a lot different than juniors. Guys are older. They’re bigger, stronger, faster. And there’s always that adjustment period that guys need to go through. It’s different for everybody. There’s been a lot of guys who have gone through our organization over the years. Whether they’re down for three games [or] half a season, but whenever you see them in the NHL, you feel a sense of pride. They were a part of our organization. Braden Holtby is one that sticks out for most of our fans.”

It isn’t just players. Hershey Bears head coach Spencer Carbery was the head coach of the Rays from 2011-2016. Jason Fitzsimmons, who is part of the Caps scouting department and minor league operations, played 70 games for the Stingrays from 1994-98. Fitzsimmons lives in the Charleston area and gets a good look at the team to see if any prospects are ready to move up to the next level.

“It’s kind of like a family to a certain degree,” Concannon said.  “I think everyone accepts their role and loves their role and wants each other to do well.”

When asked about an equipment and financial support tied to the affiliation agreement, Concannon wouldn’t divulge into much detail besides that the Caps provide “all different types of support.”

“Without diving into the specific details of the affiliation agreement, I can tell you that there’s all different types of support,” he said.  “We’re proud to be affiliated with [Washington]. For the most part, it’s always something we look forward to every year. Maybe getting the opportunity to help develop somebody that could eventually be playing at Hershey, or Washington down the road. But without going into details, there’s also different types of support. It’s a very strong relationship. It’s one that’s been probably the longest lasting in the ECHL out of all the affiliations. Probably second to Wheeling and the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s something that we’re very proud of and we’re excited to be a part of every year.”

With the affiliation agreement extended the Caps and Rays will continue to strengthen their relationship that has allowed them to become one of the strongest affiliations in the ECHL.

“It’s a relationship that continues to grow,” Concannon said.  “It gets stronger every year. [The Caps] are very good to us. They’re very inclusive.”