Capitals, Bears extend affiliation

wsh-her_250.jpgThe Washington Capitals and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL) have extended their affiliation agreement through the 2009-10 season with an option for 2010-11, Capitals vice president and general manager George McPhee and Hershey president and general manager Doug Yingst announced today.

The Bears, one of the AHL’s elite franchises, recently completed their third season as Washington’s AHL affiliate under the current agreement. Hershey has qualified for the playoffs each of the last three years and won the Calder Cup as the champions of the AHL in 2005-06 and advanced to the Calder Cup finals in 2006-07.

Thirteen former or current Bears – Chris Bourque, Frederic Cassivi, John Erskine, Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann, Boyd GordonMike Green, Brooks Laich, Quintin Laing, Sami Lepisto, Joe Motzko, Jeff Schultz and  Dave Steckel – skated for Washington this past season, as the Capitals won the Southeast Division and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Washington goaltender Brent Johnson also played one game for the Bears this past season on a conditioning stint.

The Capitals’ recent success with Hershey extends beyond the players and to the coaching staff as well. Washington, searching for a new head coach 21 games into last season, promoted then Hershey bench boss Bruce Boudreau to lead the NHL squad. Boudreau, who coached Hershey the previous two seasons, guided the Capitals to one of their most successful campaigns in team history. In his 61 games behind the bench, the Capitals posted a 37-17-7 record and ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak. Boudreau is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, which is presented annually to the NHL coach who has contributed the most to his team’s success.

The Bears also announced that head coach Bob Woods and assistant coach Mark French will return next season. Woods assumed the head coaching duties on Nov. 22, 2007, when Boudreau was named head coach of the Washington Capitals. French was named as assistant coach on Jan. 2, 2008.

The Bears’ home arena, Giant Center, seats 10,500 for hockey and is located less than 140 miles from Verizon Center. In addition to sharing a common fan base with the Bears, the Capitals have also held summer development camps, parts of training camps and an NHL preseason game in Hershey.

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