HERSHEY, Pa. – Former Hershey Bears and Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau announced he is bringing a new kind of hockey to the Sweetest Place on Earth, bringing a United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) team to play in historic Hersheypark Arena where the Bears called home for 64 years. The team plans to begin play in the 2021-22 season in a slate of about 44 games per season, plus three showcase events.
The league is geared towards players ages 17-20 looking to continue their hockey development after playing in youth leagues and continuing their careers in hockey. Boudreau and his wife, Crystal, are bringing the team to play in the league’s Premier Division as a Tier III Junior A club. Boudreau has experience bringing the Minnesota Blue Ox into the league and wanted to bring the league to Hershey to fill one of the few missing links in hockey to the town, whose hockey history runs deep.
“Crystal and I moved back to Hershey because we love the people, the town, and the history,” said Boudreau. “We started the Blue Ox in Minnesota, it went really well, and was a great addition to the community. We love working with the young men and the fans, and growing the game of hockey. We are hoping to do the same in Hershey. The only thing missing in the Hershey hockey landscape is a junior team. We hope to give back to the community, continue to grow the game, and share in the history of hockey in Hershey.”
Plans for the hockey team are still ongoing, as the details like colors and the name are still to be determined. Still, Boudreau mentioned having the historic Hersheypark Arena as the team’s home venue will provide a unique opportunity for young players to play in an incredibly unique environment.
“To have an iconic, historic arena like that, and we’re going to build a new locker room for the team and spruce it up a bit, but as to other buildings that I’ve seen that small teams in Minnesota have had, it should be something special to the players,” said Boudreau. “The kids are going to be in awe and I’m looking forward to that.”
Scouting players for the USPHL is unique, according to Boudreau. Players are scouted as far as Europe or locally for players looking to grow their game. The goal is to provide a link for more junior players to pursue as south-central Pennsylvania’s hockey depth grows.
The USPHL is comprised of 62 teams across the United States after its inception in 2012. Players that skate for teams in the league typically play at the collegiate or ECHL levels, with some players like Charlie Coyle going on to play in the NHL. The league coming to Hershey will be one of the biggest ticket events to come to Hersheypark Arena in some time, as the Bears’ former home is still used for local hockey such as Lebanon Valley College youth hockey, and of course, for Bears practices. Having hockey games of that caliber being played only adds to the rich tradition in Hershey, and it will be excellent to see the old barn hosting major hockey games as it once did. Boudreau hopes to establish a relationship with the Bears to help young players pursue professional hockey while the clubs are separated by only a slapshot away.
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