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Bears turn reins over to French

The Washington Capitals and Hershey Bears announced today that Mark French has been named the 23rd head coach in Bears history, and that Troy Mann has been named the team’s new assistant coach.

“After a nationwide search and talking to dozens of qualified candidates to guide the fortunes of our team next season, we found the best man for the job already had an office at Giant Center,” said Bears president and general manager Doug Yingst. “His knowledge of the game and his relationship with the players make him an outstanding choice.”

French ascends to the head coach’s office at Giant Center after serving as an assistant coach to Bob Woods since January 2008. Prior to his assistant coaching duties with Hershey, he was the head coach and director of hockey operations for the Wichita Thunder (CHL) from 2005-07. He was responsible for player recruitment and contract negotiations while with the Thunder and managed the team’s operating budget.

French also coached in the ECHL with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies during the 2004-05 season, walking the bench as assistant coach as the Bullies posted a 42-21-9 record.

Along with extensive professional coaching experience, he also brings considerable collegiate experience, having been the head coach at Wilfrid Laurier University from 2002-04. French served as assistant coach and assistant general manager of the Canadian Hockey League’s North Bay Centennials from 1999-2002.

A native of Milton, Ont., French played college hockey at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., serving as captain for three years there and received the prestigious “212 Degrees” annual award all four seasons, presented to the athlete who demonstrates leadership, commitment and excellence on the ice.

French, 38, becomes the 23rd head coach in Hershey Bears history, succeeding Bob Woods, who was promoted to the Washington Capitals last month. He lives in Hershey with his wife Kimberly. They have two children, Ellie (2) and William, who was born during this past Calder Cup winning season.

Mann, 39, comes to Hershey after serving as associate head coach of the Charlotte Checkers (ECHL) in 2008-09. Prior to his stint with the Checkers, Mann was the head coach and director of hockey operations of the Columbia Inferno (ECHL). His coaching career began as a player/assistant coach in the United Hockey League before he became an assistant coach and interim head coach of the Central Hockey League’s Topeka Tarantulas in 2004-05.

Mann’s 11-year professional playing career included a stint with the Mississippi SeaWolves in the ECHL, where he was the first player to sign with the franchise in 1996 and won the Kelly Cup while playing for Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau in 1999. Bob Woods was also a member of the 1999 SeaWolves, serving as both a player and an assistant coach. Mann is a 1993 graduate of the University of Toronto, where he played for the Varsity Blues.