Saturday, 8 January 2011


Hockey is an interesting game whereby one has to earn respect. Respect isn't just given based upon name recognition or legacy. Otherwise, we'd be sitting here debating the merits of Brent Gretzky's game or how Brett Lindros changed the way the game is played. Teams normally show one another respect after a long playoff series by shaking hands as a way to end the battle with honour and respect. It's an age-old tradition in hockey, and one that the players take very seriously. However, the AHL's Hershey Bears played two games in the month of October while showing some serious disrespect to two other AHL teams.

I had heard rumblings about this before the Manitoba Moose's recent series against the Hershey Bears, but it was laid out across the Sports page of the Winnipeg Free Press for all to see on Friday. It seems as though the Hershey Bears added a couple of logos to their "Championship" jersey that they wore in October to commemorate their 11th Calder Cap they had won in the previous season.

While I have no issue with teams who want to display their achievements on their jerseys, it seems a little bush league for a professional hockey team, especially one as storied as the Hershey Bears, to be creating new jerseys with their resum├ęs on them. If you're an AHL fan or a Bears fan, you know that the Hershey Bears have won the Calder Cup eleven times, including the last two consecutively. Having the bear in the logo holding two Calder Cups is not what you'd expect from a professional hockey team.

With that, enter Gary Lawless, reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, who discovered more about these championship jerseys. Lawless writes,

"Wilt the Stilt was as famous for announcing to the world he'd been 'friendly' with more than 20,000 women in his life as he was for his hall of fame basketball career.

"The Bears can now be known for similar 'notch on the bedpost' bragging.

"Back-to-back Calder Cup champions, Hershey put together a jersey with a Moose logo on one shoulder and a Texas Stars patch on the other.

"The Stars and Moose are the teams the Bears defeated in the last two Calder Cup finals.

"'We're the champs and here are the chumps we left in our wake,' is the message the Bears want to convey."
Again, I had heard about this earlier in the season, but I never really followed up on it simply because I thought it was a one-off game where the champs wore their jerseys and then auctioned them off to fans. However, upon reading Mr. Lawless' article, I decided to dig a little deeper.

It appears as though the Bears used their championship jerseys for two games during the month of October as they worked their way through the schedule - once in Hershey, and the other in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Of course, that means both a home and road version of the uniform, and that's exactly what the Bears had done: created a home and road set of championship uniforms.

Going back to what Mr. Lawless wrote, the home white set did indeed have both the Manitoba Moose logo and the Texas Stars logo on the shoulder! Normally, the Bears have the Washington Capitals logo - their NHL affiliate - and their secondary logo on the shoulders, but this is a first that I've seen in any professional hockey. And it's not like they just did this at home for their fans. No, they took their act on the road where the Moose logo was displayed on the right shoulder and the Stars logo was displayed on the left shoulder.

I'm shocked. In fact, I agree 100% with Gary Lawless when he writes,
"Designing, manufacturing and wearing these jerseys is a mistake, an error in judgement and ego run amok. It's not what the Bears have stood for in a glorious history dating back to 1938 with over 5,000 games played in the AHL and a record 11 Calder Cups. There's absolutely no question the Hershey Bears are the flagship franchise of the AHL and such a display is beneath their standard."
Wearing it once for your own fans? I can stomach that. Wearing these jerseys on the road for other teams' fans to see? Wow. It's a little sickening to see the Bears, so steeped in nostalgia and memories, stooping to this kind of bravado and self-indulgence at the expense of other AHL teams.

There's a friendly handshake between teams in the two conferences where they pledge to visit one another's rinks to help sell tickets. The Bears are always a good selling ticket in Winnipeg when they visit, and I hope that this little indiscretion towards the Moose by the Bears won't hurt their chances of visiting next season as the Moose and Bears continue this friendly setup. I like the Bears as a franchise, and I really hope this won't keep them from visiting MTS Centre in the future.

But if they don't face Manitoba next season, the Bears have no one to blame but themselves. And that's too bad because these teams are beginning to develop quite the rivalry.

I respect and support the Bears for raising money for charity, but not at the expense of other teams in the AHL. Continue to do good for the community, Bears, but please leave the minor-league shenanigans to non-cornerstone franchises.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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