HERSHEY-Boyd Kane knows a little something about winning.
A native of Swift Current, SK, Kane has been made playing professional hockey his life’s work since 1998. Within that span, he suited up for a game in the National Hockey League 31 times, including eight games in a Washington uniform. But it’s his ability to lead winning teams at the AHL level that has been the hallmark of Kane’s tour of duty, serving as either captain or alternate on three Calder Cup teams. He’s hoping for a return to glory, as Hershey takes to the ice for its 75th anniversary season next weekend.
Kane is one of two men in AHL history (Dave Fenyves with Rochester/Hershey is the only other in 1987 and 1988) who has served as team captain for back-to-back Calder Cup titles with two different teams. In 2005, Kane hoisted the Calder Cup for the first time as a member of the Philadelphia Phantoms. One year later, under head coach Bruce Boudreau, Kane again had the honor of accepting the Cup, as Hershey defeated Milwaukee in the 2006 final.
After three seasons away in Philadelphia with both the Flyers and Phantoms, Kane again returned to central Pennsylvania in 2009 and immediately found that winning formula. Wearing the “A” on his sweater with Bryan Helmer serving as captain, the Bears set an American Hockey League record for most wins in a single season with 60. That incredible run was capped off by 16 more wins and a 2010 Calder Cup over the Texas Stars. 76 wins in a single hockey season, unlikely to be ever matched again with the AHL scaling back the regular season schedule last year from 80 games to 76. Three championships in a span of five seasons, all while wearing a letter on the front of his sweater has more than solidified Kane’s place in AHL history.
With that kind of success, it’s easy to see why the last two seasons have been difficult for Kane and the Bears in Hershey. The Bears have clinched a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs seven straight seasons under the Washington flag, winning it all on three different occasions. But Hershey has been stung by two straight first round exits each of the last two years. Charlotte got the better of the Bears in 2011, followed by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2012. Kane knows the opportunity to win is always there when you pull on a Hershey sweater, but sometimes best efforts fall short. “I think playing in Hershey, you’ve got a chance to win it all every year,” said Kane. “That’s what’s expected, but the last few years it hasn’t happened. But I like the way we look right now.”
As the new year starts, it’s a bit different than a normal season. No NHL hockey means a later start to camp, and no NHL preseason games to help the process. For Kane, it changes the process a bit, but it also puts everyone in Hershey on equal footing to start the new year. ”You’re just getting going now, you feel like you’re a couple weeks behind from where you normally are, but everybody’s in the same situation now,” Kane said.
“It’s just a matter of getting everyone together here and working hard, getting your legs underneath you and getting ready for the season.”
That preparation time began Sunday in Hershey with Day 1 of training camp, followed by Hershey’s first preseason game Wednesday at Binghamton. Three more games this weekend round out the exhibition slate, and then Hershey begins play for real. Expectations are always sky high in Chocolatetown when it comes to hockey, and this year is no different. But with more turnover on the roster than in recent seasons, Kane sees opportunity in bringing a lot of new faces together. ”We might not be as old of a team, but there’s a lot of guys that have been around and are really good players,” Kane said. ”It’s a challenge to come together as a team with a lot of new faces, but we’re up for that challenge right now.”
Fortifying the roster at season’s beginning are goaltender Braden Holtby and defenseman Dmitry Orlov. Both have played in Hershey before with Kane, and Kane is encouraged to have the pair back in the fold at season’s beginning. “They’re both great players and great guys. It can only help having those guys,” Kane said. ”Talent wise, they bring the talent level up a lot, and they can only help our team right now.”
For Kane and the Bears, the hope is that an infusion of new players combined with the celebration of 75 years of hockey excellence leads back to Calder Cup glory.
It’s a path that Kane knows better than most.