When Brian MacLellan took over as Capitals general manager last summer one of his goals was strengthening the relationship between the Caps and their American Hockey League affiliate Hershey Bears.
Both teams hired new head coaches – Barry Trotz and Troy Mann – and both teams returned to the playoffs before falling in the second round.
On Wednesday, the two clubs announced they have extended their affiliation agreement through the 2015-16 season.
“We are extremely pleased to extend our affiliation with the Hershey Bears,” said Capitals president Dick Patrick. “In our view, Hershey is a top franchise in the American Hockey League, and we look forward to our top prospects continuing to develop in a successful and winning culture in Hershey.”
The Bears recently completed their 10th season as the Caps’ AHL affiliate and reached the playoffs for the ninth time in those 10 years. They also won the Calder Cup in 2009 and 2010, as well as in 2006. Hershey has reached the Calder Cup final in four of the 10 seasons it has been affiliated with Washington under the current agreement.
Last season, 22 former or current Bears played for the Caps: Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle, Chris Brown, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Chris Conner, Eric Fehr, Stanislav Galiev, Mike Green, Philipp Grubauer, Jack Hillen, Braden Holtby, Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Michael Latta, Liam O’Brien, Steven Oleksy, Justin Peters, Cameron Schilling, Nate Schmidt, Aaron Volpatti and Tom Wilson.
“The Hershey Bears are proud to continue one of the longest-running partnerships in professional hockey,” Bears president and general manager Doug Yingst said. “This affiliation has always made perfect geographic and logistical sense, and we expect that fans in both Hershey and Washington will again have a competitive and exciting team to cheer for.”
The Bears have led the AHL in attendance for nine straight seasons, with 372,070 fans visiting the Giant Center in 2014-15, an average of 9,791 fans per game. The team also welcomed a new regular-season record crowd of 10,998 on April 18 when the Bears hosted the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Giant Center seats 10,500 for hockey and is located less than 140 miles from Verizon Center.
The Capitals and Bears were previously affiliated for seven seasons from 1977 to 1984, including the Bears’ 1980 Calder Cup championship.