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Bears, Caps announce partnership

The National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals announced today that the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League will become the team’s primary development affiliate. The partnership, which will begin in the 2005-06 season, will allow the two organizations to work together in developing the Capitals’ top prospects.

“We are excited to announce our partnership with the historic Hershey Bears,” said Capitals general manager George McPhee. “They are a great organization and a model franchise in the AHL. The Capitals look forward to a successful relationship that will benefit everyone involved. Hershey has a tradition of being a great hockey town and its proximity to our market is attractive to our organization and fan base.”

The Capitals are ending their longtime affiliation with the Portland Pirates, which began in 1993-94, the Pirates’ inaugural season. The Bears and their former parent club, the Colorado Avalanche, announced in March a mutual agreement to end their affiliation. The Bears had been linked with the Avalanche since 1996.

“We are thrilled to have the chance to partner with a NHL club like the Washington Capitals,” said Bears president/GM Doug Yingst. “Hershey and Washington are a natural fit because of the young talent within the Capitals’ organization and the geography of having our parent club just a short drive away. We are very much looking forward to a long-term relationship.”

There are currently 20 players in the Washington system that were either first- or second-round draft choices under the age of 25, and 13 of those players played for the Pirates in 2004-05. Less than 140 miles separate the MCI Center, the home of the Capitals in Washington, D.C., and the Giant Center in Hershey.

The Hershey franchise is one of the oldest and most successful in AHL history, having joined the AHL in 1938 for the league’s third season. The Bears have claimed the Calder Cup, given annually to the league’s champion, eight times, most recently in 1997, and have made the playoffs in 57 of their 68 seasons.

The Capitals and Bears were previously affiliated for seven seasons from 1977-84, including the Bears’ 1980 Calder Cup championship season.