The Capitals announced Tuesday that they have extended their affiliation agreement with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League through the 2014-15 season.
The Bears have served as Washington’s top minor league affiliate since 2005 and have won three Calder Cup titles over that span (2006, 2009 and 2010). During the 2013-14 season, Hershey led the AHL in attendance for an eighth straight year with an average of 9,664 fans per game at Giant Center.
“The success of the Hershey Bears as the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals has been unmatched for nearly a decade,” Hershey president and general manager Doug Yingst said a in a team-issued release. “The affiliation makes perfect sense geographically and logistically, and we are excited to work together again to produce two quality teams for our fans.”
Seventeen players suited up for both the Capitals and Bears last season, including goalie Philipp Grubauer, defensemen Connor Carrick, Dmitry Orlov, and Nate Schmidt and forwards Chris Brown, Michael Latta and Casey Wellman.
Despite the success both the Capitals and Bears have enjoyed throughout their partnership, the 2013-14 campaign marked the first time that both teams missed the playoffs in the same season since their affiliation began nearly a decade ago.
The Capitals and Bears have traditionally signed two-year partnership agreements, but the one-year deal announced Tuesday may suggest that Bears would like to see how things play out in Washington next season with a new general manager and head coach on the way.
Both the Capitals and Bears are searching for new bench bosses after the Capitals fired Adam Oates in April and Mike Haviland left Hershey to take a head coaching job at Colorado College.
The Bears have taken on a different look over the past few years, counting on more free agents (professional or college) and trade acquisitions and relying less on Capitals draft picks- which is likely a factor of what has (or hasn’t) been trickled down to Hershey.
Consider that the 2009-10 Bears won the AHL championship with a lineup that was littered with ten Washington draft picks (Karl Alzner, Chris Bourque, John Carlson, Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth and Mathieu Perreault were among them), while the 2013-14 Bears saw just two Capitals draft picks dress in at least 20 games (Grubauer and defenseman Patrick Wey).