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Capitals/Bears extend affiliation agreement

The Washington Capitals and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL) have extended their affiliation agreement through the 2019-20 season, Capitals senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan and Hershey vice president of hockey operations Bryan Helmer announced on Thursday.

The Bears, one of the AHL’s elite franchises, recently completed their 11th season as Washington’s AHL affiliate under the current agreement. Hershey reached the Calder Cup final in 2015-16 and has qualified for the playoffs in 10 of the last 11 seasons. The Bears won the Calder Cup in back-to-back seasons as the champions of the AHL in 2009 and 2010 as well as in 2006. In addition, Hershey has reached the Calder Cup final in five of the 11 seasons it has been affiliated with Washington under the current agreement. The Capitals and Bears boast the eighth-longest current NHL-AHL affiliation.

“We are excited to extend our long-running affiliation with the Hershey Bears for four more years,” said MacLellan. “The success of our organization over the last decade speaks volumes about the strength of our relationship with Hershey. Our affiliation makes sense both geographically and on the ice, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Bears to develop our prospects into quality NHL players.”

Last season, 21 former or current Bears played for Washington, including 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby. Holtby posted a 74-45-7 record with 14 shutouts, a 2.37 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 132 games with Hershey from 2009-13.

“The Hershey Bears organization is thrilled to continue our affiliation with the Washington Capitals,” Helmer said. “We consider being affiliated with the Capitals an honor and look forward to collaborating with the team even more in the future as the partnership continues to be a win-win for both organizations.”

For the 10th consecutive season, the Hershey Bears boasted the AHL’s top attendance with 372,020 fans visiting the GIANT Center in 2015-16, an average of 9,790 fans per game. 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.