Fans flocked to Giant Center Saturday night, not to see the 2008-09 Hershey Bears team take the ice, but to celebrate the club’s AHL record 10th Calder Cup victory over the Manitoba Moose on Friday night.
After each player was introduced individually by emcee, John Walton, the voice of the Bears, it was President/GM, Doug Yingst’s turn to take the podium. That evening, after he had introduced Pat Mathers, the wife of his mentor, the late Frank Mathers, and mentioning that the victory coincided with Frank and Pat’s 61st wedding anniversary, Yingst reflected on the bond between the Bears and their parent team and the relationship that has spawned three appearances in the Calder Cup finals in the past four seasons.
“It’s a marriage, a relationship between the organizations, between George McPhee and myself, that’s second to none. I can go back in the 80’s when we won 40 or more games four consecutive years with the Flyers, and the relationship with Bobby Clark was outstanding,” said Yingst.
The (Capitals’) philosophy is winning and developing; it’s not developing and winning. There is an instrumental difference in that. They believe that, and I’m a strong believer, ‘I’m in Hershey, I want to win’, so I think you can’t develop without winning. They agree with that, and we start tomorrow looking for next year.”
Though the celebration was for the fans to honor the hometown heroes, Yingst, in the latter part of his speech, let the fans know just how important a role they played in the team’s success.
“This fabled franchise, and I really mean this, is the envy of the other 28 teams of the American Hockey League. The envy is just not because we have great players, you’ve seen that we do, we have great coaches, great building, great trainers, good front office staff. The reason we’re the envy of the American Hockey League is because of you (the fans). You are the most passionate fans anywhere, in any sport.”