The Capitals, Hershey Bears, and Developing Players

There has been some spicy talk on social media recently about the role of the American Hockey League (AHL) in relation to that of the National Hockey League (NHL). The AHL is made up of 31 teams- all with affiliations to NHL teams. A new team was brought forward this summer from the ECHL because the creation of the expansion team Las Vegas Golden Knights . (More on the ECHL later.) The AHL’s primary function as a farm team is to develop rookie players into skilled NHL players.

Stephen Whyno reported that Caps coach Barry Trotz sent a text to then Hershey Bears coach Troy Mann congratulating him for his role in developing players for the wining team. “Thanks Manner for having all those rookie Caps ready, They all played well — you own a piece of this win last night.” There is little doubt about the importance an AHL coach had in the formation of an NHL player. (Unfortunately, the Caps/Bears did not renew their contract with Mann and have since hired Spencer Carbery from their ECHL affiliate.)

The other side of the story is that many AHL teams are just as much a part of their local communities as are NHL teams. And those communities get behind their players as they fight to win games that will lead them to the playoffs and the ultimate prize–the Calder Cup. The Bears have their own fan club, the Hershey Bears Booster Club, that arranges opportunities for fans to travel to away games, even Caps games, as well as other trips for the community. Like the Capitals Fan Club, they also raise funds for local charities.

But let’s get back to how the AHL and the NHL work together. We start with the affiliation. To keep it easy, we will use the Hershey Bears and the Washington Capitals as our example. The Bears renewed their affiliation agreement in October 2016. It expires after the 2019/20 season. Prior to that, they had been affiliated for 11 seasons, among the longest in the AHL.

The problem many AHL teams face is the structure of contracts in the NHL and the control the parent team has over up to 50 contracts for both NHL and AHL players. The NHL can only carry 23 active players on their roster. The AHL, on the other hand, can sign additional players and have as many as they can afford on their roster. There are more rules about numbers that can dress for a game and types of players eligible to play at any given time.


There are any number of contracts available for AHL players. These three are signed:

Standard players’ contract (SPC) or the full AHL contract, is signed only with the AHL affiliate. The player must sign a new contract to play for the NHL. These players will most likely not ever play in the NHL.

Professional try-out contract (PTO) used to allow the NHL team to look at a player. At times, that player could be a veteran NHL player who is hoping to land a new NHL contract. For the AHL, that player may be on the team for no more then 25 games without a new standard contract. Think Alex Chiasion who signed a one-year bridge contract after training camp in 2026.

Amateur try-out contracts (ATO) are for amateurs to get a taste of playing with the AHL but they maintain their amateur status for the following season.

Then there are the contacts players actually signed with the parent organization (the Capitals); however, they are playing with the AHL (Bears) and not on the NHL roster.

Two-way contracts give the parent team (Caps) the option to send a player down to the AHL (Bears) and recall him to play in the NHL again. The salary rate changes depending on which league they play. As players run up and down between Hershey and Washington DC, their salary fluctuates and the salary cap changes as well. So moving players around for the good of the Caps is no easy job. This past season we saw that with several Bears roster players.

Players under 25 on September 15 sign entry-level contracts. These are two-way contracts and only used for a player’s first NHL contract. These guys can go back and forth between the Caps and the Bears without waivers. Jakub Vrana is one of those players on a ELC who played 73 regular season games with the Capitals. Read more about him and his contract and performance here.

A Standard NHL one-way contract means the player receives an NHL salary regardless which league he happens to play a game. For the Caps to send one-way player to the Bears, they have to put the player on waivers. That’s a whole different set of rules which we discuss here.

Developing Players

When it comes to developing players for the national league, the Bears do one heck of a good job. Among the players who have moved into the NHL after even a brief time in the AHL are: Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Eric Fehr, Stanislav Galiev, Mike Green, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby, Michael Neuvirth, Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Michael Latta, Liam O’Brien, Steven Oleksy, Justin Peters, Nate Schmidt, and Tom Wilson.

And current Bears who contributed to the Capitals during the playoffs and wining the Stanley Cup are: Travis Boyd, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Madison Bowey, and Christian Djoos.

The AHL has also been the developing ground for future NHL head coaches. Bruce Boudreau was once a Bears coach when the Capitals brought him up to coach in the NHL. Current Cap’s head coach Todd Reirden also coached in the AHL. And the AHL brings forward coaches from the ECHL, as the Bears have done with coach Carbery.

Although it can be destabilizing for AHL teams like the Hershey Bears to loose players around whom they have built a playing strategy. The Bears have a record of winning and their fans want more of the same. Since 2000, the Bears have won three Calder Cups. They have turned out some amazing players like goalie Michal Neuvirth who was in the net for the 2009 and 2010 Calder Cup wins–he went on to play for the Capitals and ultimately the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Caps Future

The truth is, they all want to play in the NHL. In all fairness, one can’t begrudge an AHL player from taking the opportunity the live out their dream. And as you can see from the list above, many of the Capitals’ top players were developed in the AHL. And more are likely to be on their way soon. Starting with Ilya Samanov, the Capitals goalie for the future. It is possible that one of the current Bear’s goalies, either Phoenix Copley or Vitek Vanecek could be the Caps next backup goalie.

So, go  to a Hershey Bears game. Get to know the players who you may see on the Caps or other NHL rosters in the future. Support the team – meet the players after a game, join the booster club, and cheer on their success. Check out the Caps Fan Club or the Caps Road Crew and go to a game with the Caps community. We are all one big family and we should get to know each other more.

Oh and read our daily Hershey Bear reports to meet the players. Read our other stories.







2017 Caps Review in Pictures

2017 was a big year for the Washington Capitals. They made it back to the playoffs, only to lose again in Round Two. They took the summer to regroup and trade away many our favorite players to make room to pay for those that that management hope will bring them closer to the Stanley Cup.

In January the Caps had a 14-game regulation winning streak which ended in a loss to Ottawa. But boy was it fun to watch! And they beat the Dallas Stars for the first time since October 2008. They also hosted the annual Hockey ‘n Heels.

February we celebrated Alex Ovechkin’s 1,000th NHL career point–who doesn’t like a big Ovi Party?? And we had a guest visitor from Abu Dhabi: female hockey player Fatima Al Ali who was invited by Peter Bondra to join the Caps at practice and to attend a couple of games while she was here. And…Burky hurt his hand February 9th and was out until mid March. We had our first taste of a ‘bye-week’ and we did not like it. The Caps added Kevin Shattenkirk to the roster and our hopes were high that he would be one piece on the board to help win the Cup.

March was relatively uneventful. We had a Caps Camo night to honor the US military. The team headed down the final stretch of the regular season and it seemed as if all the pieces were in place for a real run toward a final round in the playoffs. They were the first team to clinch a playoff spot with 100 points. Their performance was grand.

That takes us to April. Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer continued to amaze us with their blocking skills and shutout games. Garrett Mitchell – the Hershey Bear’s captain – got his first break playing in the NHL and we were thrilled to capture the moments with his family for him. There was some final game fun with the Jerseys Off Their Backs tradition – especially the Kuzy and Slapshot moment!! And then it was playoff time!

May began with chats of “We Believe” and hope that this phenomenal team would be the one to finally make a difference. Once again the Capitals won the President’s Trophy and unfortunately were again eliminated in the second round. Yes, kicked out of the run by the Pittsburgh Penguins…again… And then began the talks about trade and who the Caps would offer up a potential drafts by the new Las Vegas Golden Knights. Most bets were on Grubi getting the nod for the number one spot as goalie.  And somewhere in the noise of the end of the season began the buzz about Jakub Vrana.

That brings us to the trade months of June and July.  We reported on the Ovechkin wedding celebration extravaganza. Lily traveled to Chicago for the draft. We hung out at Caps Development Camp and had a first look at some potential players in the Caps future. That included Fan Fest and a lively alumi game. Mostly, we watched a lot on twitter as the players and their families enjoyed some time off. The off season is still a great time to meet up with other Caps fans – like at Fan Club events. And we said our goodbyes to the Smailys as they took our little mascot JoJo off to Texas.

First on the shocking list was the selection of Nate Schmidt to join the Vegas Knights. We still aren’t really over it yet!  TJ Oshie worked out a deal with the Caps for eight years at $46 million. Then they resigned Brett Connolly. Dmitry Orlov was signed next for six years at $30.6 million. Evgeny Kuznetsov signed his eight-year agreement and Grubauer signed a one-year contract. Finally Andre Burakovsky was offered a one-year deal to see if he can improve his consistency and earn a longer term contract.

We said goodbye to Dan Winnick, Justin Williams, Kevin Shattenkirk, Marcus Johansson, and Karl Alzner. For many it felt as if the Caps team had been gutted and there was a good bit of uncertainty about the future. Oh and Mitch Korn stepped down as head goalie coach.

The changes continued in August. Verizon Center was no more. Enter Capital One Arena – The Vault! New jerseys were offered by Adidias and we covered they history of sweater changes. And sadly, CSN ended their relationship with our friend Jill Sorenson. Fan are still not happy about this change. And CSN became NBC Sports Capitals. And players began to return to the ice on their own at Kettler.

The new season got going in September and we had a chance to see some of the rookies at Caps Camps and in the pre-season games as management looked to fill their vacancies. The NHL Centennial visited Washington and we had a chance to hug the Cup — the closest we have come so far!

And at long last October arrived. Opening night included the red carpet and a lot of line shuffling as Coach Trotz worked with new players and how to best integrate them into the team. Burky got hurt again…and the Caps were plagued by quite a bit of inconsistency which led to fan frustration.

By November they were settling into a better pattern. Oh and there was Hockey Fights Cancer night – all those boys in lavender!!!

December has been a fun month for us with a trip to Las Vegas where the Capitals met the Golden Knights for the first time. Brittney met up with the Caps Road Crew and the Capitals’s Fan Club to get you some great shots of Nate Schmidt as well as the Caps playing in this fabulous new stadium.


We ended the year with a win against the New Jersey Devils — where we got to see MoJo again. We still miss him too…


So here we are in 2018 and hopeful that the months ahead will lead the Capitals closer to winning the Stanley Cup. We never give up hope.

Our team of writers, tweeters, photographers, and fellow fans from around the world are here to bring you all the news, as we see it. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to keep up with all our tweets, photos, and stories!

Washington Capitals Fan Club: Keeping Caps Friends Together

The Washington Capitals have a great group supporting them, on and off the ice. The Fan Club has been around since 1975, almost from the Caps beginning in 1974; developing interest in the team by connecting fans through organized events including road trips, membership meetings with media, and happenings during the off season. In addition, the Fan Club has a rich history of fund raising and donating to charity organizations, which is one of the reasons we love this group!

During the season, the Fan Club hosts monthly meetings with notable speakers like CSN’s Jill Sorenson, Tarik El-Bashir and Caps TV personalities JoeB and Locker or Capitals Alumni Hall of Famer, Rod Langway. They provide many opportunities for fans to interact with the people behind the scenes that most only see on their TVs, like the on-ice officials. They keep us linked with the broader NHL hockey community by hosting visiting booster clubs and connecting with them on road trips. And while we are talking about road trips – they have several planned each year. Some members even travel in groups to the All Star Game and the NHL draft. Be sure to check out the web page for planned trips, including visiting the Hershey Bears, during the 2017/18 season.

  • And let us not forget their presence at Kettler Ice Plex. Have you seen those banners hanging over the Capitals Ice Plex? Those are compliments of the Fan Club. There is a core group—the Caps Practice Pack—that shows up nearly every day for practice. We analyze players performance and postulate who is in and who is out.

They aren’t content to just meet up during the season; they also make sure we join together during the off season. One of our favorite and fun events is the annual Nats Baseball Game.

This year they are hosting a special wine tasting event in McLean, Virginia for friends to meetup and catch up.  All this designed to keep the sense of community alive. After all, the Fan Club is more than scheduled gatherings. Many lovely friendships, and even romantic relationships, have grown out of these times together.

karl signing ballAs we said, the Fan Club is one of our favorite organizations because of their charitable giving. This past season, they (and you) donated over $12,000 to excellent charities. One special event is the annual fundraiser that includes bidding on Christmas balls signed by the players. All their events led to the Fan Club sending over $10,000 to Fort Dupont this season for their Kids on Ice Hockey Program which “focuses on providing increased opportunity, education, and inspiration to the young people of the DC area through ice skating & educational activities.” Fans also join other fans during the summer to help with the Caps Cares rejuvenation day to spruce up the rink area for the coming season.

  • In addition to this great holiday-focused giving, the Fan Club honors players for shut-outs, hat tricks, first goals, and other milestones. They honor the players by giving to their designated charities, including Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the Alzheimer’s Association, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and other children’s programs.

Stop by the Fan Club Table this season to renew or initiate your membership. And during the year, stop and vote for your favorite player of the month. Donations are then made in their name to Fort Dupont or the player’s favorite charity.

christma fanclub

If you are new to the Caps Family, this is the perfect way to become part of an active community. If you have been around a while, it’s a great place to share stories about the old days. And if you are already a member, invite a friend to check out their events as your guest. There is always room for more friends!

Check out their home page for all the details on the Capitals Fan Club. The Committee and Board Members work hard to make this a GR8 community with something for everyone. Come for the fun and leave with some new friends!!

Slapshot, Some Crazy Hats, and Smiling Children


We can’t think of anything better than a visit by the Washington Capital’s Slapshot to bring laughter and smiles to children suffering from cancer, other than some fun hats from Ellie’s Hats. That was the perfect mix on Monday when the two partnered together to bring a special holiday blessing at Pediatric Specialists of Virginia. Jay Coakley, president of Ellie’s Hats, invited Slapshot to join him to visit the clinic and entertain the children, their parents, and the wonderful giving staff. You know Slapshot–he HAD to be there!!

Slapshot met with about 15 children, taking pictures and high fiving as Jay passed out hats for the children. Why hats you ask? Many children who go through the grueling chemotherapy treatment loose their hair and their spirits may dwindle too. Founder Jay Coakley discovered that when a child puts on a fun hat, (even Caps hats)  it is the ultimate way of lifting the spirits of a child and letting their personality shine through in the hats they select.

What’s next for Ellie’s Hats?

  • They will be bringing dinner from Jimmy John’s to patients and families on the oncology unit at Inova Children’s Hospital on December 14.
  • They will attend the Holiday Party at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital and donate $2,000 worth of Visa Gift Cards to the families on 15 December.
  • They will be going to Medstar Georgetown University with the Capitals to visit the children and pass out more hats on 19 December.

watermarked82016-12-12-2044FiCP is partnering with Ellie’s Hat to encourage you to help this wonderful and wide-reaching cause. We would love nothing better than to see the hockey community flood Jay with hats, other gifts, and donations for the children. Click here to find out how you too can help.  And keep checking with us to hear more about our partnership with the Washington Capitals Fan Club and future hat drives!

Pediatric Specialist provide specialized care for children who suffer with a variety of health issues, including cancer. Click here to donate to help them.

Images Around the Phone Booth

 Photos of Caps Friends at Verizon Center

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We started this blog with a promise to be your eyes on the Washington Capitals and hockey in the area. We’ve been posting tons of player pictures for your pleasure on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Today we focus on some of the sights we have captured around Verizon Center. Enjoy!

We Caps fans are a passionate group. We also love our rockin’ red ensembles and our signage. As we walk around Verizon Center we meet a lot of people displaying that passion and we thought we would share some of those images while we wait for our next home game.

vz grinchWe aren’t sure why the Grinch showed up but  thankful he didn’t steal the Caps win when they played the Habs on Saturday.

There were these signs…   vz hough


… and then there were these,  for which we have no comment.

And signs sharing the love for former players: vz green signs

Cute kid signs, in Russian and upside down!


Fans are always great about bringing the Christmas Cheer.  Nate Schmidt even personalized this sweater with a snowman!

Vz dadsSometimes you might catch the dads hanging out in the section above you to watch the game. (Picture taken with permission of Lars Johansson.)

VZ Petra







Happy Petra with her puck from Andre Burakovsky.

vz slapshotHoliday Slapshot

We don’t’ know what Verizon was thinking about Brooks Orpik here.

christ orpick






christma fanclub






 Your Washington Capitals Fan Club: taking donations for signed Caps balls to raise funds to help start a hockey school at Fort Dupont Ice Rink in Washington, DC.

vz anthem santaAnd Santa came to sing the National Anthem.


christ rockers

Your Red Rockers.

 Hope you like this imagery of our Friends in Cold Places. Keep checking back with us for more great practice, game day, and fan photos. And



What to Expect: Caps-Habs Re-Match.

Caps Daily Glass Bump: Pregame 26 December 2015

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Photos by Brittney Marcum

The Washington Capitals will face the Montreal Canadiens for the second time this season. Last time we met T.J. Oshie earned himself two goals and helped bring the Caps a win. The Capitals are in a six-game winning streak and will be looking to secure their lead quickly.


The team returned to the ice at Kettler Iceplex this morning after a four day winter break. They received an extra day above the NHL-mandated three days, probably for good behavior! Not only did the players look happy to be on the ice the rink was packed with cheering spectators.


h crowdOutside the rink, fans stood for over an hour to get shots of their favorite players (more on that later).

Check out our post from this morning to read more about the Canadiens. (The Canadiens are Coming)

What to Watch for Tonight

Line-up looks to be the same:

8-19-77, 90-92-14, 25-83-43, 21-46-65

h burk h laich

We need to see some activity from Andre Burakovsky and Brooks Laich. Burkie has one assist in five games while Brooks is 0 for 5.





habs chimeraJason Chimera is one goal away from joining five other players on the team with 10 or more goals.


T.J.Oshie and Alex Ovechkin: Who will finally bring us a hat trick???


Ovechkin is eight goals away from 500 NHL career goals.

Coming Up

Practice is scheduled for 1130 at Kettler on Sunday

Next game is away at Buffalo on Monday at 7pm on CSN-DC and MSG-B


Caps Fan Club Welcomes Jill Sorenson

CSN’s Washington Capitals Emmy Award winning reporter, Jill Sorenson, met with the Fan Club on Saturday, November 21 to talk all things Caps before our game with the Colorado Avalanche. Jill talked about her journey from  NBC sports anchor and reporter with George Michael at WRC-TV from 2000 to 2004 to WTTG-TV (Fox),  before joining CSN in 2005. Today Jill leads CSN’s coverage for SportsNet Central and contributes to Capitals Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage. She can often be seen near the Zamboni reporting before the game and has a reputation for some of the best interviews with players and coaches. She said she got her start reporting out in Minnesota, “where hockey is everything.”

Jill talked a bit about the impact of social media on reporting. She said for the beat reporters who are there every day, “twitter is very important” especially for breaking news. The challenge for her is to balance her responsibilities with CSN for SportsNet, other shows, and other sports coverage and making sure that fans get the information they want and need. She “gets a lot of her news from social media” too.

She spoke about how she got where she is today covering sports. She was an English and Spanish major in college because the college lacked a specific journalism program. Jill interned with a studio in Minneapolis and was advised by a sports producer that it didn’t matter what she majored in, just that she could communicate. She said she chose English as a major to sharpen her skills as a writer and the internships provided her with the experience she needed to advance in broadcasting. She was an athlete growing up and though she thought she would “be writing for Sports Illustrated or something” she interned with a news station and fell in love with it. Today she still loves writing and whenever the opportunity arises, she will write her own short pieces. Continue reading “Caps Fan Club Welcomes Jill Sorenson”