Summer Mailbag: Wellar's Back, Stanley Cup, and More!

Summer Mailbag: Wellar's Back, Stanley Cup, and More!

07/19/2018 -
Greetings Bears fans! We are back with another Summer Mailbag. The response to my last tweet asking for questions was so overwhelming, that I couldn’t get to everything I wanted in my last post, so we’re happy to bring you even more today! 
Again, send me an email at or tweet me, @zackfisch, with your questions! Let’s get started! 

Toni (via email) 
Why no game the night before Thanksgiving? That never happens! 

The Thanksgiving Eve game has been a long Hershey Bears tradition. In fact, the last time the Bears did not play a Thanksgiving Eve game on home ice was 1986. 

As always, the Bears planned to play on Thanksgiving Eve, but unfortunately, the way things worked out, the Giant Center was unavailable that day. The building has booked Marvel Universe Live from Nov. 23-25. While that does not fall on Thanksgiving Eve, the show will be using the building to load in and setup that day. If you look at the website for the show, it’s a pretty detailed and elaborate setup, so it takes a bit to get things right in every arena they visit. Marvel is obviously one of the biggest things out there right now, so it’s important to bring this show to Hershey. 

It’s certainly a bummer it falls over Thanksgiving Eve, but that’s the reason there is no game that day. No, the people making the schedule didn’t get the week of Thanksgiving wrong. No one is trying to take away this tradition. In fact, everyone hopes we can bring back a Thanksgiving Eve game next year. The building simply just wasn’t available.

Do you think the Stanley Cup will make an appearance in Hershey this season

Dennis (via email)
So is the Stanley Cup going to make an appearance at a Hershey Bears game? 

Josette (via email)
Is the cup coming to Hershey?

We’ve received plenty of questions like these! Nothing is finalized yet, but the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Bears have been in contact about the Stanley Cup coming to Hershey this upcoming season. It’s something that we would love to see happen to celebrate the former Bears who claimed the title with Washington, and to allow our fans to see the best trophy in all of sports. 

When further updates arise, we will keep you posted, but hopefully this is able to happen. 

Matt (via email)
Love the WELLAR hire! Do the Bears still need one more assistant coach? 

I love the hire, too. I’ve called friends in Utah, Cincinnati, and Reading, and each one of them has gone on and on about how great of a coach and person Patrick Wellar is. From talking with his former teammates here, he was loved in the room and has really adapted to coaching well. He just got married this weekend, and landed his dream job, so things are pretty good for him. I look forward to working with him, and I think he will be fantastic to help teach the young defenders. 

The Bears will still be hiring another new assistant coach to replace Ryan Murphy. I imagine that hire will be made in the coming weeks. Interviews are underway. Of note, video coach Mike King, goaltending coach Alex Westlund, and strength and conditioning coach Mike Wagner will all return next year. 

There are still changes being made to Washington’s coaching staff, but it’s been reported that Hershey assistant coach Reid Cashman will be joining Washington next season. We’ll let Washington make an announcement in that regards and comment more on that, if and when it happens. 

When might the aforementioned F/D signings take place?

I mentioned in my last Summer Mailbag that I thought the Bears were still looking for a veteran forward and a veteran defender. I believe that is still the case. Why no signings yet? At this time, there is a lot of wait and see. Players are holding out for NHL deals. Some guys are weighing NHL PTO offers, or looking at what money they might get overseas. The Capitals and Bears may have considered certain players, but then determined they weren’t a good fit due to red flags, playing style, abilities, and so on. 

There is a chance that some of these bubble guys who played in the NHL last year who are free agents might not get an offer at the NHL level again. Maybe come August, or September, they decide they’ll take an AHL deal, and instantly you’ve got a former 20-goal scorer in the NHL on your roster that can be a leader and a game-breaker. 

I think this might be a process that takes a little time, but I do believe come training camp, the Bears roster will have an additional vet forward and defender.

Who do you think will lead the team in points at the end of the season?

Oh man, that’s a tough one this far out. I’ll give you three picks: If he’s here and healthy, Riley Barber is the easy choice. Of the young prospects, Shane Gersich will fight for NHL time, but I think he’s got the potential to be a top scorer in the AHL. Juuso Ikonen is my dark horse. People aren’t going to talk about him because he played overseas and is a bit of an unknown, but the Capitals brass see him as a top-6 AHL player right now. His speed and skill really showed off at Development Camp. 

What is your favorite AHL arena (not Giant Center) to broadcast from and the least favorite?

Favorite arena to call a game: Coca-Cola Coliseum (previously Ricoh Coliseum) in Toronto
Least favorite arena: Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence
Best vantage point: MassMutual Center in Springfield 
Worst vantage point: Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence. You broadcast from a corner a mile away from the ice. The PPL Center in Allentown also does not have the ideal broadcast location, which is puzzling since it’s a new building and there is a nearly empty visiting management booth where the away broadcast booth should be
Favorite Road Cities: Toronto, Providence, Charlotte 

What’s your favorite non-cup memory working with the Capitals organization?

With the Capitals, it’d be my NHL debut this past February. John Walton has been a big part of my development, and I cannot thank him enough. When he called and asked me to fill-in for him, I was speechless. 

It isn’t a fond memory because of the technical issues, but I’ll never forget my first AHL game in Rochester. I started with the Bears on a Tuesday, and that Thursday I was on a bus to Rochester, and that Friday I was on the air. 

That day, I setup all my gear, which I had used before and was very familiar with, at 10 a.m. It worked great. I tested with the station and we were set for that evening. I got back to the rink at 4 p.m. and tested again. Everything was ready. Come 5:30 p.m. I looked at my gear and it’s disconnected. I try everything I can to get back on, but it’s not working. At that point, I’m staying calm. I have an hour to figure this out. I get the IT guy in Rochester, and he’s let me know there are some building issues being fixed. By 6 p.m. it becomes apparent that the entire internet server for ethernet at the BlueCross Arena is down. Red in the face with anger, the long-time “Voice of the Amerks” Don Stevens comes over apologizing profusely, and also frustrated because he can’t get on the air, either.  Now I’m starting to get nervous. It’s 15 minutes until my first broadcast, and there is no sign of a fix in sight. 

After speaking with the radio station, I decided we had two options. 1) Not have the broadcast 2) Call in on my cell phone and broadcast the game. 

At that point, we went to option 2. There was no way we were not having a broadcast. I held my phone up to my mouth and just called the game like I normally would. It wasn’t fun, but it worked. I couldn’t hear myself in my headphones, and I could not communicate with the studio. My producer was on Facebook messenger typing “GO!” when the commercial breaks would end. On top of that, I had to hold my phone in one hand, and at the time, that was problematic because I was trying to post game updates on Twitter. I don’t do that anymore as we’ve added to our operation and have put more of an emphasis on video and graphics on Twitter during games, but at the time, it was no easy task.

All in all, it was a mess for me, and not the introduction I wanted to make. But it was trial by fire, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We got on the air, and at the end of the day, that was a win in that situation. 

Believe it or not, it wasn’t my worst first game with a new team. In 2011, I worked with the Rochester Honkers, a collegiate summer league baseball team. Our first game was in Mankato, Minnesota. The ballpark forgot to activate the phone lines after turning them off for the summer to save money. With that said, the only way to get on the air was….you guessed it…by calling the game on my cell phone. After the blowout loss, and I headed down to the bus. To my dismay, it was nowhere to be found. The team had forgotten me! When the manager finally figured it out, they were 15 miles down the road. Luckily they came back and got me, and I don’t think I ever paid for a drink with my manager after that! 

any chance we could see new bears jerseys anytime soon? These have been around since 2012, an update would be cool!

I believe the Bears are pretty happy with their current look, designed by the legendary Joe Bosack, who creates pretty much all the big logos sports wise out there. While the Bears did have a lot of success in the previous look, I think what they switched to in 2012 was a big upgrade. The return to Chocolate and White was needed, and all the logos are bold, but classy, and show the history of the team. 

The Bears will be switching to a different material of jerseys this season that is similar to the NHL. This won’t bring any look changes to the jersey, but the material will feel lighter. 

Thanks for reading! I wanted to end this blog by saying happy trails to Amy Rhine, who was a big part of the Hershey Bears marketing and community efforts these past eight years. Friday is her last day as she has accepted a new position outside of the company. Amy worked her tail off for the Bears, putting in long hours to give our fans the best nights possible. We will certainly miss her! 

Until next time…Go Bears! 
-Zack Fisch

Hershey Bears in a victory embrace

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