READING, Pa – The Reading Royals of the ECHL, the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League today jointly announced that they have entered into an exclusive affiliation arrangement, under which the Royals will receive players designated for assignment within the professional hockey operations development systems of the Capitals and Bears.
“The Berks County Convention Center Authority and SMG are thrilled to begin the next chapter of Royals’ hockey as a member of one of the premier hockey operations systems in the game,” said Royals and SMG Regional General Manager Zane Collings. “We consider this a watershed moment in the development of professional hockey in our region, and we’re proud to be a part of such a positive moment.”
“We are very pleased to announce our new ECHL affiliation with the Reading Royals,” said Capitals’ General Manager George McPhee. “The Royals are a first-class organization where our prospects will be playing in an environment that will help them develop to their ultimate potential. We feel the proximity to both Washington and our AHL affiliate in Hershey will be beneficial to all three clubs.”
“We’re excited to be formalizing our working relationship with the Royals once again,” said Doug Yingst the President and General Manager of the Bears. “In past seasons, we’ve had occasion to work with the Royals’ organization on a formal and informal basis, and we’ve found that the support we provided one another in those circumstances has been mutually productive and beneficial. We’re looking forward to expanding this working relationship and helping all three organizations within this system to accomplish our common goals—to grow hockey and win championships.”
“This affiliation agreement kicks off a new era of Royals’ hockey,” said Royals’ General Manager Mark Wallace. “The Capitals have a deep tradition of success and a proven track record of identifying and developing young talent. The history of success of professional hockey in Hershey is simply legendary. We look forward to working with the Capitals and Bears as we all seek to strengthen and grow our sport in Central Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake region. We believe that fans in Reading are going to have a unique opportunity to closely follow the development of prospects within this system, while being treated to an exceptional quality of play which we trust will translate into winning games in Reading.”
The Capitals, who have been in the NHL since 1974 and play home games at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., have had considerable success in developing young talent, particularly with respect to players selected through the draft which has included stars such as Alexander Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Alexander Semin. A number of players currently on the Capitals roster are products of their minor professional development system, including goaltenders Braden Holtby, who played for the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL in the 2009-10 and was an integral member of the Capitals success in the 2012 NHL playoffs, and Michal Neuvirth, who was an ECHL All-Star in 2008-09.
The Bears, who are based at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, are the seventh oldest continuously operating hockey organization in North America (after the ‘original six’ teams of the NHL), dating back to the early 1930s. The Bears have won a record eleven Calder Cup championships in the AHL, most recently in 2010. The Bears’ previous ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays, last won the Kelly Cup in 2009 with several players assigned through Hershey. This past season, no fewer than nine members of the Stingrays’ team earned stints of varying lengths in Hershey, including forwards Maxime Lacroix, Matt Pope and Garrett Mitchell, defensemen Phil Oreskovic and Paul Baier, and goaltender (and former Royal) Daren Machesney.
The Royals, who are entering the team’s twelfth season in Reading, had a formal secondary affiliation with the Bears during the 2004-05 season and have worked with Hershey on an informal basis in several other seasons. From the Royals’ inception in 2001 through 2008, the team was primarily affiliated with the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL and the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. From 2008-09 through 2011-12, the Royals were affiliated with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL and the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and, beginning in 2009-10, the Royals added a secondary affiliation with the Boston Bruins of the NHL.
The Royals anticipate hosting representatives from the Capitals’ and Bears’ organizations at the team’s annual Town Hall Meeting, an open fan forum which, as with past seasons, is expected to be held later this summer. More information will be forthcoming on the Town Hall Meeting in the near future. Comment@prohockeynews.com Follow us on Twitter @prohockeynews