Semyon Varlamov during practice at Giant Center

All photos by Kyle M. of our Hershey Blog, Sweetest Hockey On Earth

Semyon Varlamov returned to the U.S. on August 1st, a full month and a half before training camp began. Varly’s intention was to get his body in optimal shape for the upcoming season after losing several months to a groin injury last year.  Success would be three-fold: avoid injury, become Washington’s number-one goaltender, and get better acquainted with Caps fans.

Despite tough training work, a commendable effort, and some true blogging prowess, the first two months of the season have been a complete disaster for Semyon (except for maybe that awesome Caps Convention commercialCLICK ON ME!!!).

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shoe-graphic

Up for grabs today.

This photo is up for grabs today.

Our humble little blog, Russian Machine Never Breaks, spent the last year cutting our teeth writing about the Washington Capitals. Through our labors we learned about the team’s secret weapon: the Hershey Bears. This Pennsylvanian cache of dynamic, young talent kept us entertained long after the Caps took their early curtain call at the playoffs. The Hershey Bears marched dutifully to their 11th Calder Cup championship led by guys like Andrew Gordon, a right winger with bright prospects whose only mistake in his young career was to blog with our lowly ilk.

The HBH-ers inspired us, and we decided they deserve more than a measly category on this site. So all of the Russian Machinists got together one night, drank a couple root beers, one thing led to another, and now we have a bouncing baby blog in the family.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present to you

Sweetest Hockey on Earth

Piloting the new site will be Kathryn Hedrick, intrepid reporter and author of Flashy Glove Save, and Kyle M., photographer with a sports-coverage pedigree. Together they will relay to you the promise and excitement of the Hershey Bears Hockey with the same gusto, pizazz, and thesaurus-ness you find here on RMNB proper.

So join us in bookmarking www.sweetesthockeyonearth.com on your laptop (and iPad), following @SweetestHockey on the Twitters, liking us on the facebook, and plugging this RSS feed into your feed reader. We’ll make it worth your while.

To celebrate SHOE (oh dear, is that really the acronym?), we’re holding a little contest. Among those of you who network up with us and help spread the word on Friday, we’ll select the most enthusiastic to receive some free RMNB merch and the signed photo above. We’ll announce our winners before Hershey’s home opener on Saturday Night.

Go! Bears! Go!

Mathieu Perreault, Francois Bouchard and Chris Bourque celebrate.

One look at the dismantling of the Chicago Blackhawks and it becomes apparent that the life blood of any hockey organization is its youth. If you can bring in young players that provide value at reasonable prices you have the ability to succeed in the long term. In the case of the Hershey Bears, it allows the Caps to fill their team with players who know how to win and execute Bruce Boudreau’s system.

The challenge then becomes not only which players to promote, but which players should be dangled in a trade and which you can simply cut bait with. The underlying question in all of this is simply: Does the front office feel a certain prospect can make it in the NHL?

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Alexandre Giroux Signs 1-Way Deal With The Edmonton Oilers.

Alexandre Giroux scores a deal with Edmonton.

Alexandre Giroux holds the Calder Cup. (Photos by Kyle M.)

Alexandre Giroux holds the Calder Cup. (Photos by Kyle M.)

One of the greatest Bears of all-time has finally left for a legitimate shot to stick in the NHL. Bears first line Left Wing Alexandre Giroux signed a one-way NHL contract with the Edmonton Oilers early Saturday morning.

Per Mitch Beck of Howlings, Giroux had several good offers on the table and chose Edmonton because he gets to play in front of an old mentor:

The Quebec City native will be reunited with ex-Rangers coach Tom Renney. The left handed shooting Center played for Renney in the one game he got in with the Rangers back in 2005. In that game he played just three shifts and drew a key penalty on the second shift that led to a power play goal.

Giroux told Howlings, that he had other NHL options, including an offer from the New York Islanders. He also had a much more substantial $1.3mm offer from the KHL that he leaves on the table in order to complete his dream of being a regular NHL player. He does it with no regrets. “It was a lot of money and it was a hard decision, but I’m really excited to have this chance to make an NHL roster,” the recently turned 29-year old said. “Coach Renney is a great coach and the organization has such a great history. I’m looking forward to going there and giving it everything I’ve got to help the team become a contender once again and prove I belong there.”

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Chris Bourque Signs with KHL Club Atlant. Sorta.

Is the Bourque Family moving to Moscow?

Readers, we politely remind you of our policy regarding hockey rumors from Russia:  Lie down until it goes away.

The news out of Russia today has been dissonant. The KHL club Atlant, based in the Moscow region, updated its roster with one noteworthy addition.  According to atlant-mo.ru, Atlant has signed three-time Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bear Chris Bourque to a  two-year deal.

From the press release:

American forward Chris Bourque agreed on our offer and signed a contract with our club today. Terms of this agreement are intended for two years.

Later, in an interview with Tim Leone of The Patriot-News, the playoffs MVP said he hasn’t signed a contract yet: “It’s not official. . . I’m talking to them. But nothing official, that’s for sure.”

Has Atlant jumped the gun?  Is Chris entertaining other offers?  Or is he just waiting for the right time to let us down easy.  If the news is true, we’ll be very bummed that Chris is leaving Hershey.  On the other hand, that KHL contract probably comes with a car, a condo, and a handle of excellent vodka.

What do you make of the news?

Andrew Gordon: Mission Accomplished!

Gordo's Take

The 2009-10 Hershey Bears celebrate back-to-back championships and their 11th in Franchise history. (Photo by Kyle M.)

The 2009-10 Hershey Bears celebrate back-to-back championships and their 11th championship in franchise history. (Photo by Kyle M.)

It was only one week ago that the Hershey Bears won the Calder Cup in a 4-0 rout.  It was their second championship in as many years, their third in five years, and the eleventh in franchise history.  Andrew Gordon writes to share his thoughts on the championship, the celebration, and  what happens now.

Life has a million ways to make you feel good, and a million ways to make you feel miserable.  In my 24 years, I have found only one way to feel like a champion (make that two ways now).  It’s a feeling that all players at all levels try to put into words but can’t ever find the exact way to express it.

It’s a combination of happiness, excitement, relief, satisfaction, fulfillment and complete bliss all mixed together and topped with a touch of “thank God it’s over.”

A championship win is so much different than a regular-season win because there is nothing left to accomplish after it’s over. There is no refocusing for your next opponent. No pasta meal waiting for you before tomorrow’s game. No more playing through injury or sickness. It’s all over, and you have nothing else to think about. It’s as if half of your brain suddenly has nothing to do, so it just shuts down and lets the 8-year-old in you run wild.

In the championship moment, nothing matters except the guys around you. I know there was some intense crowd noise as the buzzer sounded in Hershey, especially compared winning on the road in Manitoba, but I don’t remember hearing a sound. It is like I blocked out everything else in the building except the pile of players huddled around the crease. As you fly over the bench, all you want is to be there with the boys, celebrating what you have just accomplished.

When my career is over, I might not remember the score of the game, but I’ll always remember the feeling of jumping that bench (and falling on my face, if you watch the tape) and sprinting towards the rest of the guys.

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Scenes From The Bears Calder Cup Fan Celebration

Last night was the Hershey Bears Calder Cup party at Giant Center.  RMNB could not attend, but our spies are everywhere.  From the aperture of Kyle Mace comes a parade of Bears images.  Let’s take a second to appreciate Alexandre Giroux‘s aviator sunglasses, maniacal beard, and spraying bottles akimbo. The man is one bass solo away from joining Motorhead.

Here is Kyle’s video:

Glorious stills after the jump!

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Hershey Celebrates Its 11th Championship (The Photos)

The 2009-10 Hershey Bears Win Their 11th Calder Cup. Here is the group picture!

Tonight, we had the pleasure of having our own Hershey Correspondent Kyle M. down on the ice as the Hershey Bears celebrated their 11th Championship in Franchise History. And boy did he get some great photos.

Below the jump, check out Bryan Helmer hoisting the Calder Cup, the Bourque family celebrating Chris’s MVP Award, Doug Yingst getting a champagne shower from Michal Neuvirth and Francois Bouchard losing his dang mind. The overriding theme of these photos is “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”

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The Bears Win The Calder Cup! (The Video)

Via his Flip Camera, Kyle M. captured the scene at Giant Center as the Hershey Bears celebrated their back-to-back titles.

Hershey Bears Win the Calder Cup! Elevenpeat!

Michal Neuvirth raises his arms to the sky as the Hershey Bears win their 11th Calder Cup.

Michal Neuvirth begins the celebration a few seconds before the final buzzer. (Sean Simmers, The Patriot-News)

The Bears’ 4-0 blowout of the Texas Stars is a fitting punctuation on the team’s 60-win season.

In this, the team’s eleventh Calder Cup championship-clinching game, the Bears’ did everything right. Michal Neuvirth was sterling in net; the team owned puck possession,  second chances, and shots on goal (36); and the scoring came from depth– namely the blueliners.  John Carlson‘s first-period sweeper was Captain America’s second GWG of the series, and his second championship goal of the year.  Karl Alzner rounded out the first period with his own tally through Brent Krahn‘s 7-hole.  Patrick McNeill had goals in both the second and third periods.  And let’s not forget that Chris Bourque, who led the AHL in playoff goals, rightfully claimed the MVP trophy.

When Captain Bryan Helmer hoisted the Cup and passed it to his teammates, he ended one of the most dominating seasons in AHL history.  The Bears ’09-’10 season contained 342 goals (no other team had 280) and a stunning 24-game winning streak at home.  In this series the team overcame a two-game deficit, won three games on the road, and tonight delivered a decisive knockout blow.  There is no shortage of acclaim for the Bears.

The bearded horde of Hershey has earned the right to shave, but even moreso the right to party.  May the law officers of Dauphin County look the other way until dawn, because the Chocolate and White have finally won.