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After 25 years, Hershey sweet as ever for Yingst

by Julie Sensenderfer || AHL On The Beat Archive

Through the long and illustrious history of the Hershey Bears, strong leadership has been one of the hallmarks of the franchise. From John Sollenberger to Lloyd Blinco to Frank Mathers, the Bears have achieved success not only because of play on the ice, but leadership in the front office.

After last season’s Calder Cup championship, the name of Doug Yingst can be added to that most distinguished list. Yingst celebrates his 25th year with the American Hockey League’s most storied franchise this season, and he has served as Hershey’s general manager since 1996-97, adding the title of President during the 1998-99 season.

The recipient of the James H. Hendy Award for the second time in 2005-06, presented to the league’s top executive, Yingst became only the second general manager in team history to win the honor twice. This accomplishment was achieved after the Bears compiled 103 points in the regular season and defeated the Milwaukee Admirals four games to two in the Calder Cup Finals. Also added to Yingst’s resume last season was the brokering of a new and prosperous affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Washington Capitals.

Yingst began his long tenure with Hershey in 1982 as the sales and promotions director and was promoted to assistant general manager under Mathers in 1988.

“My goal when I started 25 years ago was to stay with the Bears as long as I could,” says Yingst. “I have been fortunate enough to grow within the organization because I had great mentors and teachers such as the late Frank Mathers, and good people in the American Hockey League who have been outstanding not only to me, but also to my family.”

The thrills of winning are magnified by what the team means to a community. In Hershey, and to Yingst, the fans that support their beloved Bears are the real benchmark for success.

“A definite high for me has been our fan base,” said Yingst. The treatment of the fans to us in the front office and to the players has just been outstanding. Their support, through thick and thin, has been second-to-none and much appreciated by all of us.”

Winning may not be everything, but for Yingst, winning the Calder Cup in 1987-88, 1996-97 and 2005-06 each provide their own set of memories, and has set the bar very high for future Hershey general managers.

“The 1987-88 team was deemed the best team in the American Hockey League ever by The Hockey News; going 12-0 in the playoffs. That was a memory that I will never forget,” recalled Yingst. “It was a very, very close-knit group with an excellent coach in John Paddock.

“In my first year as general manager in 1996-97, we won my second Calder Cup, the club’s eighth, in our first year of an affiliation agreement with the Colorado Avalanche. That win can be attributed to another outstanding coach in Bob Hartley,” said Yingst.

Yet another championship was on the horizon for Yingst as another NHL affiliate settled into Chocolatetown last season.

“2005-06 climaxed with a Calder Cup in our first year of our affiliation with the Washington Capitals. With the help of a knowledgeable coach and great individual in Bruce Boudreau we were able to win our ninth Calder Cup. Each win is a sweet one, but they all have their distinctive qualities.”

For Yingst, however, it’s not just about championships won; it’s about the people you meet along the way.

“Getting to know the fans, the players, the great athletes that have come through Hershey and the respect they have for the organization and administration has been a thrill to me. As a result of the respect of the Hershey area, many players have decided to live here and some have even met their wives here,” he says. “Growing up in this area, that in itself certainly makes it an outstanding 25 years for me.”

In addition to his duties as president and general manager, Yingst also is very instrumental in the youth hockey community in Hershey. He is the head coach of the Hershey Jr. Bears, who travel annually to the Quebec Cup tournament in Quebec City each February. The tournament is often compared to the Little League World Series in the United States, and this is the 47th consecutive year that the town of Hershey will be represented and the Hershey Bears will sponsor the Hershey Jr. Bears Quebec team. It is the longest team in operation that travels to Quebec City.

Yingst was able to participate in this tournament himself as a player for three years.

“Playing in the tournament is exceeded by the experience the boys go through. They have the opportunity to learn about other cultures, first by staying with French-speaking families for the duration of their time in Quebec, as well as fellowship with over 115 teams from approximately 14 different nations,” says Yingst. “This is an experience of a lifetime and one that our program has been committed to for 47 years and I hope for many years to come.”

The Hershey Bears will play the franchise’s 5,000th regular-season game on Dec. 20 in Albany. On that same date, Yingst will have participated in 2,120 of those games in several different capacities. His value and impact to not only the Hershey Bears but to his community in the last 25 years is impossible to measure, but his legacy is assured for all-time in the outstanding company of his Chocolatetown predecessors.