(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.) At times, it feels like any season in Hershey that doesn’t culminate with the club hoisting the Calder Cup is a failure. Over the past decade, the Bears have made it to the finals in four seasons and taken home three Calder Cups to give them 11 overall, the most in league history. After a disappointing 2013-14 in which they missed the post-season, the Bears bounced back in 2014-15 to not only make it to the playoffs but advance to the second round by defeating the Worcester Sharks 3-1 in the best-of-five playoff opener. The turnaround in Hershey this off-season has been plentiful, however. Of their top-10 scorers in 2014-15, the top four are all gone. Tim Kennedy and Casey Wellman signed in the KHL, while Chris Conner and Kris Newbury are heading elsewhere in the AHL next season. They’ve also lost Tomas Kundratek to the KHL and Jim O’Brien to the New Jersey Devils organization. However, few teams got the boost in the off-season that Hersey did. In their lineup next season, they’ll have Chris Bourque (29 goals, 66 points in 2014-15), Carter Camper (15 goals, 52 points), Sean Collins (17 goals, 36 points) and Paul Carey (15 goals, 34 points), as well as defensemen Taylor Chorney (four goals, 19 points) and Aaron Ness (eight goals, 45 points). All but Chorney would have been top-10 scorers in Hershey this past season, and Chorney barely misses the cut. Youngsters Jakub Vrana, Riley Barber, Chris Brown and Stanislav Galiev also project to have great seasons in 2015-16, while Bears fans must also be excited about the potential for defenseman Madison Bowey to step in and make an impact. In goal, veteran Dan Ellis has come in to help carry the workload alongside Justin Peters. Last year Hershey was out in the second round, but there’s reason to be confident in the club’s ability to best that performance this season.
Team History: The Bears are the longest-tenured member of the league, having joined the AHL in 1938 as an expansion team. Though the club existed prior to 1938, its expansion status was a way for the then-I-AHL to absorb the Bears and put them in place of the Buffalo Bisons, which had folded. It took only three seasons for the Bears to make their first Calder Cup final, but they didn’t actually capture their first championship until 1946-47, nine years after they had entered the league. They won their first Calder Cup without the help of one of their original legends, Arnie Kullman, who would join the club in 1948. Kullman would go on to become one of the most legendary players in Bears history and played his entire 12-year career in Hershey, a total of 753 games. He did get a brief stint with the Boston Bruins, but his NHL career lasted a mere 13 games. Even with Kullman leading the charge, the Bears would fail to capture a Calder Cup for the next decade. As Kullman’s career began to come to a close, however, he finally was part of a champion. In 1957-58, the Bears finished first in the AHL and proceeded to down the Providence Reds in the opening round best-of-seven 4-1. In the final against the Springfield Indians, the Bears would cruise to a 4-2 series victory and capture the second Calder Cup in franchise history. And with the title defense beginning in 1958-59, Kullman and Co. were joined by Mike Nykoluk, who would go on to become arguably the greatest Hershey Bear of all-time. In Nykoluk’s first season, the Bears captured the back-to-back titles and appeared in four finals over the next decade, winning one Calder Cup in 1968-69. From 1970 to 2005, the Bears would remain one of the most competitive teams in the AHL, missing the post-season only seven times over the span of 35 years. In the late-1990s, Hershey would begin a run of three conference finals appearances and one Calder Cup in five years, but things fell apart in 2003-04 and 2004-05 when the Bears missed the post-season in consecutive seasons for the first time in two decades and only the third time in franchise history. But even with how successful the Bears were during their early years, it’s near impossible to deny their outright dominance of the AHL from 2005-06 to 2009-10. Over that five year span, the Bears won three Calder Cups, four conference championships, three division titles and two regular season titles. Led by players like Alexandre Giroux, Keith Aucoin, Tomas Fleischmann and Chris Bourque. In 2008-09, Giroux and Aucoin dominated the league as Giroux notched an absurd 60 goals in 68 games and Aucoin amassed 71 assists. It has been five seasons without an appearance conference final, though, and the Bears aren’t used to this. Remarkably, five years is the longest drought of this kind in Hershey. They’ll be looking to put an end to that this season. Dunc Fisher is the franchise’s all-time leader in goals with 260, while Nykoluk is the all-time leader in assists (636), points (808) and games played (972).
Logo History: The Bears’ logo history is deeper than the other longstanding team, the Rochester Americans, but not by much. And while Rochester had their logo perfected early on, Hershey’s logo needed to go through some major changes.
The logo began as an anthropomorphic bear snarling in full equipment while skating up ice. While it sounds more like a fever dream than an actual logo, we assure you this is what the Bears wore. Somehow, a version of this logo would remain with the franchise until the 2000s, which seems hard to believe. It underwent its first alteration in 1944 when the word mark was introduced. By 1958, however, the Bears decided to remove the bold ‘Hershey’ that went across the logo and place an oval around the bear while making the word mark much more subtle within the circle. For 30 years, this remained the logo.
In 1988, the club decided to add color back into the mix. The club added red once again, albeit a couple shades darker, and the Bears had their primary logo for the next 12 seasons. With the 2000-01 season approaching, though, the Bears underwent their first major overhaul and unveiled a much more modern logo. The swiping bear lasted a decade as the team’s primary logo and, at that point, was the team’s best to date.
Current Logo: But the Bears’ current logo is exceptional. Not only is it the best in the franchise’s history, it currently stands as the best in the league. What’s not to love about this crest? The combination of the cream color with two shades of brown makes it look like a classic logo, while the choice of white for ‘Bears’ makes the team’s name pop. The bear doesn’t have the fine detail that could make it look cluttered, yet there’s enough detail that it doesn’t really feel like this logo will ever really need to undergo a change. It’s hard to make a logo look new and still have that classic feel, but the Bears accomplished that.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)