June 05, 2018
By: Kristi Fulkerson
No matter how the Stanley Cup Finals end, one franchise will win their first-ever championship. Vegas, in it’s first (very impressive) season of existence, or Washington, who joined the NHL in 1974 — 43 seasons ago.
I suppose the country is split among rooting for Vegas or Washington to win the Stanley Cup — but for me it’s an easy pick. As much as I can respect the unlikely success from the Golden Knights, I’m on the Capitals bandwagon … or rather the Hershey Bears (stay with me).
While my allegiance is to the Flyers and Phantoms, I first started covering professional hockey in 2008 at my first television job. Back then, I spent a lot of early mornings and late nights at Hershey Bears practices and games. And I’ll be honest, I was pretty green, but that experience helped me get my current job with TV2 covering the Phantoms five years later. It’s amazing how many people from those Hershey days that I still run into— coaches (Troy Mann), players (Bryan Helmer - then: Captain, now: GM), and team personnel (then/now: trainer, Dan ‘Beaker’ Stuck). Currently Washington radio voice John Walton was the voice of the Bears back then too. Hence my reason for supporting the Capitals in their bid for the Cup.
The Eastern Conference champions have 19 AHL grads on their 25-man roster, including 12 former Hershey Bears. In my time covering the Bears, I had a chance to witness the Hershey franchise win TWO Calder Cup titles in back to back seasons (2009, 2010 — pictures below). While several prospects are now succeeding just as the organization planned — in the NHL, Washington’s Jay Beagle and John Carlson are two players that were part of both championship runs with the Bears. In 2010, Braden Holtby (the Caps current starter) was the back-up goaltender to Michal Neuvirth (current Flyers netminder) who backstopped Hershey to both crowns.
According to the AHL, in the 2017-18 NHL season, 87% of players were AHL alumni, 95 players made their NHL debut, and 328 played in both leagues over the course of the season.
For me, it’s exciting to see guys succeeding at the game’s highest level and for players like Carlson, Beagle, and Holtby to potentially be a part of Washington’s storied history, much like they are in Hershey. Nothing goes better with a couple Calder Cups than a Stanley Cup. And with a 3-1 series lead, they are just one.win.away.
Here’s hoping the Flyers prospects are next in line to do the same.