Hershey Kisses line the light poles as you drive through Hershey. No matter where you turn, there always seems to be something to remind you of the tastiness of anything “Hershey” made. Be it the chocolate they produce or the park and museum they run, the company always seems to present quality products to the public. Their factory produces some of the best chocolate one can buy and probably one of the biggest selections one can find. Goes to show you that Hershey knows how to create a tasty “treat”, but when it comes to hockey the treats can taste even sweeter.
Located between Hershey Park and the Hershey Museum, Hersheypark Arena sits and has done so for many years. It is a relic to most, being that it is the oldest arena in the AHL not to mention, on most days, it houses two outstanding “treasures” inside of the arena, the Hershey Bears and the arena’s zamboni driver. Zamboni driver? Yes, Hersheypark currently employs the longest working zamboni driver in hockey and like him the Bears are a priceless treasure to enjoy.
This “factory” produces players, for all leagues, who come in unfinished but leave as hardworking, feisty and complete players. Through the years the “factory” has been supplied with numerous players from around the world through the many affiliates it has been associated with. At one time the Flyers of the NHL supplied Hershey with young prospects and free agents that they acquired, but now it is Colorado who is running the show. When Colorado’s agreement with Cornwall ended, they looked to move the team to a new affiliate seeing that Cornwall was no longer an option and so Hershey became the Avs’ new affiliate. From the agreement came numerous prospects and free agents, who Colorado brought in to teach the youngsters. To top it off, the Bear’s one time coach, Bob Hartley, now coaches the Avs and now in his place stands Mike Foligno.
The mix is nice for the Bears, they are comprised of some youngsters and some veterans. In fact they have the oldest and youngest players in the league playing for them. The “prospect rich” Avalanche seem to have players pouring in from all sides who are ready to tear it up, in the AHL atleast. Their offense is starting to click and their remarkable goaltending tandem of Denis and Aebischer are starting to show their stuff. Even with injuries to key players like Larsen and Aubin and call-ups to other key players, Hershey has remained a steady and dangerous team. With the team finally starting to settle down, they seem ready to take back what was once theirs, the Calder Cup.
Each segment of this ongoing series will look into the Hershey Bears from a team standpoint and a player standpoint. As time goes by, the stories will try to focus on a upper-ability player (star) on the team and either a darkhorse or a lesser skilled player on the team. When completed, the series will be a small “tell-all” on the players who play for the storied Hershey franchise in the 98-99 season. And so it begins…
When you think “goal scorer” playing for Hershey you generally think of Matte, but there are many others who steal the show at times. One in particular, a Ville Nieminen, controls the crease like no other. He doesn’t just “parole” the crease, like one would think… he controls it. You’ll find him either parked at the edge policing the action or out in front aiming to crash the net with the puck in hand, and that’s just who we’ll be looking at in the next Chocolate Factory.