Woods completes rare AHL trifecta

by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com

woods09_200.jpgLess than 48 hours after guiding his team to a Calder Cup series-clinching win in Manitoba, Hershey coach Bob Woods was engaged in a chore that hundreds of residents Chocolatetown would have gladly volunteered to take over for him.

Woods was mowing his lawn on a warm spring evening. Ah, the glory of being a champion.

"I always make time for it. I enjoy doing it," said Woods, a year-round resident of the Hershey area. "It’s one of the jobs you do, and when it’s done, it looks good. You feel good about it."

Sound like anything else that’s relevant these days? Like, say, winning a Calder Cup?

Woods, who was promoted from assistant coach to the top spot during the 2007-08 season, is quickly running out of jobs that help carry the Bears to a championship. He is the first man in team history to earn it as a player (1997), assistant coach (2006) and head coach (2009).

What’s next? Zamboni driver? Program vendor? VP of Marketing?

"I think always as a player, it’s special," Woods said, comparing the different satisfactions. "You are one of the guys. As a coach, I’ve explained it as watching your kids at Christmas. Every championship is different. But they all mean the same thing. They are the best at whatever level you are at."

The Bears took that concept to an exclusive plateau with this title. It is Hershey’s 10th Calder Cup, the most of any city in AHL history.

"From day one in training camp, the plan is to go after the Cup," Woods said. "We just do what’s expected here. Every year, you go into it and that’s what they expect you to get done. We were fortunate enough to get it done this year."

Bears’ fans can hardly ask more of Woods, though he has one tiny hole on his resume that he can attempt to Spackle next year. Of Woods’ three Calder Cups, none has been clinched on Hershey’s home ice.

"I’d like to win at home. Winning the Cup at home would be great," he said. "The champagne tastes just as sweet on the road. It’s good wherever you do it."

Finals a popular ticket
The Calder Cup finals was must-see hockey in both Hershey and Manitoba.

Five of the six games were sellouts. The average (12,839) and total (77,038) attendances for the finals were both all-time league records for a playoff series.

The league couldn’t have asked for a more dynamic matchup. Hershey is the AHL’s most storied franchise, while Manitoba is arguably the one most run like an NHL team. And the Moose (107 points) and Bears (106) were two of the top three teams during the regular season.

"Both organizations are class organizations. Plus, you know you are getting terrific hockey," said AHL President Dave Andrews. "It’s great for our players to be in that environment."

As is league custom, the AHL brought several of its office staffers to a finals game, this time in Hershey.

"Part of this is to see the culmination of what they work for," Andrews said. "It gives them a little bit more meaning to what they do."

As a whole, average playoff attendance in the AHL increased 19 percent league-wide over last postseason.