HERSHEY, Pa. -- The best way to start a story about the best minor-league hockey town in America is to tell the one about how a modern dynasty began.
At first glance, the phrases "minor league" and "dynasty" aren't supposed to go together. The minor leagues in hockey and baseball are, by design, in a constant state of flux. Roster turnover is required as these teams provide parent organizations with future big leaguers.
Hershey, Pa., didn't become the best minor-league hockey town in America by being like the rest, though. The Hershey Bears win, and they win consistently.
As a result, the Bears, now aligned with the Washington Capitals, built a modern dynasty in the American Hockey League.
So, about the beginning of that ... it almost never happened.
In 2006, the Bears led the Portland Pirates three games to one in the Eastern Conference Final of the Calder Cup Playoffs, but Hershey lost two straight games.
If this was going to be remembered as one of the great playoff series in recent AHL history, it was going to need some quirks, and it had plenty. Because of scheduling conflicts, the best-of-7 did not follow a traditional format, and Hershey had Games 3, 4 and 7 at home, instead of a 2-3-2 or 2-2-1-1-1.
The Pirates won Games 5 and 6 in Portland, but then there was a six-day layoff before Game 7 at Giant Center in Hershey.
Even worse for the Bears, Portland's parent club, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, were eliminated from the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs between Games 6 and 7, and that's where the mythical part of the tale arrives.
This story works better if some of the principal characters tell it: