On the morning after the Chicago Blackhawks captured their second Stanley Cup in the last four years, I am sitting here thinking about how neat it has been to hear Hershey mentioned so frequently by the NBC Sports Network duo of “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk. Not one, but two separate names that have Chocolatetown ties came through during the broadcast of what undoubtedly was the most-watched game of the NHL season. First, Doc mentions the late Steve Summers – our former beat writer – as he has several times in years past, during the Hawks’ on-ice frenzy of a celebration. Later, “Edzo” drops Mike Haviland’s name as our newly-hired head coach.
Of course, Haviland sported his 2010 championship ring for the press conference that announced him as the Bears’ new boss – a silent explanation to those who may have forgotten that he spent four years behind the Chicago bench. So why did Edzo get the name-drop duty? He is the Hawks’ local CSN analyst, working alongside legendary voice Pat Foley. I had a chance to meet Foley while calling games for our rivals “up I-81″ back in the ’08 Calder Cup finals. (To this day, I can’t understand how the Blackhawks parted ways with that man for a short time.) But working right next to him while he described that six-game series with the Chicago Wolves was something I’ll never forget. A great man that was a great help to me.
But I digress.
I, for one, am so excited for Haviland to work some magic here in Hershey. The man is a winner – a proven winner – at three different levels of hockey, including the top. He is somewhat of a local, having spent his youth in neighboring New Jersey. And, despite coaching in the Western Conference for the past four years, he knows the AHL East Division – and he knows it well. Since the AHL realigned the divisions and made the playoff format “top eight in the conferences”, this division is truly a “bEast”, and will once again require deft coaching to get the best of our opponents.
We do know some of the dates on which we can watch Haviland and the Bears take up residence on the home side of GIANT Center’s ice. The Bears’ first guaranteed home date is Saturday, October 5. It is NOT officially the home opener, YET – as the league opens its 78th season of play one day earlier. However, as our lifelong fans know, Friday home games have always been a rarity. So for all intents and purposes, you can assume October 5th will be Haviland’s first home game as our new head coach.
The other guaranteed home dates:
– Wednesday, November 27, 2013
– Saturday, November 30, 2013
– Wednesday, December 18, 2013
– Friday, December 27, 2013
– Saturday, January 18, 2014
I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Bears are currently without an assistant to Haviland. A great friend, super human being, Keys to Victory master and comedy provider will not be here for a fifth year. While I was away on vacation late last week, the news came to me that Troy Mann would not be returning to Chocolatetown, but that he would be winging west to lead the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL next season. I had to find out the news via one media member seeking access to Troy for an interview – and I was none too pleased. (People who know me well, know that I DESPISE social media for this very reason.) But, after speaking with Manner himself later that day, I learned why he had to make the decision.
This man WILL be a head coach in the AHL, and probably right after – or maybe even during – his tenure in California. To me, he belongs in Hershey. He has a way about him to which players can easily relate. His numbers coaching our penalty kill and defense speak volumes. And his work ethic is second to none. I learn a lot from coaches with whom I’ve worked – especially Mark French, and especially Troy Mann. I wish him nothing but the best, and a speedy return to where he belongs.
A few other abrupt thoughts before closing this today:
1) The assistant coach search is on, and is being conducted by coach Haviland with the help of our President/GM Doug Yingst. When one is named, you’ll hear it here and on HersheyBears.com first.
2) The annual AHL Marketing Meetings begin today in Cleveland, OH at Quicken Loans Arena. I miss attending these meetings – and one day I’ll get to make my first appearance as a Hershey Bears representative. Can’t wait to see all the exciting things forthcoming to better an already tremendously successful American Hockey League.
3) We will have news of more player signings within the coming days – definitely within the next two weeks.
4) The 2013 NHL Draft – the ENTIRE draft – will take place on Sunday, June 30 at “The Rock” in Newark, NJ. The Caps’ first pick is slated to be the 23rd overall.
5) Less than one week later, July 5, begins “Free Agent Frenzy”. Most likely some more player news and signings will follow (understatement of the day).
6) Three days later, the Washington Capitals Summer Development Camp will kick off at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, VA. Good friend Mike Vogel has the details over at Dump ‘n Chase. I look forward to being in attendance.
Thanks for reading Glove and Blogger, fans. Keep checking in for more news and updates, and keep a close eye on HersheyBears.com, as we will be doing another list of Top Ten Moments for your reflection on the 2012-13 season.