On April 30th, I saw an announcement via an article from Tim Leone of The Patriot-News that the affiliation contract between the Hershey Bears and the Washington Capitals had not yet been renewed.
Bears President-GM Doug Yingst said a deal to extend the highly successful Washington affiliation, which began in 2005-06, beyond 2011-12 is “still in negotiation.”
This brought several questions to mind and I just had to have these questions answered.
1. Biggest question: what happens if the affiliation contract isn’t renewed? Brief answer I got was that the Caps would go in search of another affiliation, even share an affiliation with another NHL team if necessary. Yeah, thanks; that just begs for more questions.
2. Why wouldn’t the Capitals renew their contract with Hershey? As found in past history, many times an NHL changes its affiliation if an AHL team folds or is losing money. Got to think neither of these is an issue with Hershey reporting this on 5/1/12:
The HERSHEY BEARS announced today that the club has once again topped the American Hockey League in attendance, setting new club records in the process. The announcement was made by BEARS President/GM Doug Yingst.
And the banner on the Bears home page does boast #1 AHL Regular season attendance 06-07,07-08, 08-09, 09- 10, 10-11, 11-12. That’s a lot of seasons of being #1 folks. Yeah, don’t think that is the issue.
So, could it be a falling out between the two franchises? Could another NHL team be trying to woo the Bears away from the Capitals, or vice versa? While proximity to the parent club is a factor for any affiliation, it isn’t the “be all – end all”, but the convenience of having call-ups close by is important. Without that proximity, a NHL team might have to carry a couple extra players on their roster to make up for it, which really messes with the salary cap. But in that case, it is what it is. It’s happened before.
3. What happens to players under NHL contract playing in the AHL if the affiliation contract isn't re-signed?
Also from Tim Leone was this:
Washington Capitals under contract: Cody Eakin, Dmitry Orlov, Braden Holtby, Cameron Schilling, Mattias Sjogren, Tomas Kundratek, Philipp Grubauer, Garrett Mitchell, Brett Flemming, Brandon Anderson, Ryan Potulny, Patrick McNeill.Washington Capitals unrestricted free agents: Keith Aucoin, Dany Sabourin, D.J. King, Joel Rechlicz, Sean Collins, Christian Hanson, Chris Bourque, Zach Miskovic, Jacob Micflikier, Kyle Greentree.Washington Capitals restricted free agents: Mike Carman, Kevin Marshall.
That’s quite a few guys who have no clue where they are going to be if the affiliation contract isn’t re-signed.Yes, players still under contract with Washington would be moved to whatever AHL team becomes the new affiliate. Does that bump players from those rosters? Without going into tremendous detail, let’s just say it would have ripple affects all around the league. What a clusterfuck that would be! But again, it's happened before. Usually team affiliations between the NHL and AHL are shortish contracts, usually one or two years at a time. Look at the history of any AHL affiliation and you'll see most of them have "changed hands" several times throughtout their history. Even the Bears have been affiliated with 9 different teams since 1938.
4. What would happen to the Hershey Bears if the affiliation contract with the Washington Capitals is not renewed? I found one answer from 2009 in a letter from Jason Chaimovitch, Vice President of Communications, American Hockey League the on the HFBoards that is probably still applicable:
As part of the initial AHL membership application a potential owner must have an NHL affiliation in place, but the league’s governing documents do not necessarily prevent an existing franchise from continuing to operate should it lose its affiliation.And this:The league's constitution, by-laws, regulations or policies do not necessarily prevent an existing franchise from operating independently should it lose its NHL affiliate, but considering (a) there are 30 National Hockey League teams who need an environment in which to develop their top prospects; (b) there is not a surplus of AHL franchises relative to the number of NHL franchises; (c) the additional costs that would be incurred if an AHL owner had to pay all of its players' salaries and other expenses; and (d) it would likely be difficult to ice a competitive product using a talent pool that doesn't include NHL-contracted players while still being guided by the AHL's development rule; I don't think it's likely we would see it happen.
Does Hershey go looking for another NHL affiliation? With 30 existing affiliations between the NHL and the AHL, this becomes an even scarier proposition for HBH. But it brings me back to the question of the possibility of them being wooed by another NHL franchise. Keep an eye out for candygrams and flower deliveries at Giant Center folks ;)
As you can see, I actually did a bit of research here (surprise, surprise). The more I ponder this, the more I hope that the delay in re-signing the contract between the Hershey Bears and the Washington Capitals is nothing more than waiting for the Caps post-season to finish before delving into negotiations. But many of my questions are still unanswered. Several times in the past, the contract renewal between our teams wasn’t signed until the summer, so until we get some definitive answers from the organizations, we’ll all just have to wait it out. Yeah, fun times.
Author's Note: 5/23/2012 The Capitals and the Hershey Bears announce they have extended their affiliation through the 2013-2014 season. Read the HBH press release here.