The Hershey Bears announced their 24th head coach in team history Tuesday morning, hiring former Chicago Blackhawks and Norfolk Admirals assistant coach Mike Haviland. The Bears announced their new coach after making the final decision last night. Haviland stated that Troy Mann, Hershey’s assistant coach from last season, is in the mix to become his assistant coach on the Bears’ bench in the 2013-2014 season.
“I’m excited, I know we have passionate fans, very loyal fans and demanding fans,” stated the newest Hershey coach. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be here and be the head coach of the Hershey Bears.”
“I’m a demanding guy and a passionate guy myself. I’m a winner, I’m going to demand excellence from day one and that starts today. I’m excited in this area and be the head coach. I’m looking forward to having a lot of success here and carving out our team in the history of this great franchise.”
Haviland succeeds former Hershey head coach Mark French, who led the Bears to a Calder Cup championship in his first year with the team, but did not return following three straight exits in the first round of the AHL playoffs.
“It started the day we decided not to extend Mark French’s contract,” Bears’ General Manager Doug Yingst said of hiring Haviland. “It was about five minutes after that the emails started hitting with people that were interested. We had to prioritize through that and it come down to an interview process which took place last week. We made the decision and finalized everything else yesterday.”
He was an assistant coach with the Norfolk Admirals from 2005-2007, coaching against the Bears numerous times in Giant Center. Haviland was an assistant coach for the Chicago Blackhawks from 2008-2012, helping them win a Stanley Cup and developing young players such as Patrick Kane and Troy Brouwer.
“Nothing but class,” said Haviland of Hershey. “It’s an organization that in my mind is the best organization in the American Hockey League. You would come in and look around the building; you look up in the rafters and see nothing but the history and the Calder Cup championships. It was a great building to come into, I know from a visiting coach you would come in and every player was excited to play and was ready to play because it was a playoff atmosphere.”
“I know there was a lot of pressure here to win and to perform. I love that, it’s the best franchise in the AHL. I think it’s a great stepping stone for a player to be in front of that pressure, to have that pressure, to understand what it’s going to take to go to the National Hockey League and be successful.”
He interviewed with the Washington Capitals to become their next head coach after Dale Hunter left before this season, but was edged out by current Capitals bench boss Adam Oates.
“Meeting with George McPhee and Brian McClellan, I think walking into the interview this year Brian McLellan was in with Doug,” said Haviland. “Certainly helped, I went through a couple interviews with them and made it down to the finals there with Adam Oates. Washington got to know who I was and what I was about. I got to know Doug Yingst years ago when I got into the league, we were always cordial with each other, always talked in the hallway downstairs.”
“It will be nice to work together and build a championship team.”
Haviland stated that Troy Mann will be in the mix for the assistant coaching job among other candidates.
“It’s an ongoing process, it’s going to start immediately here. Troy is definitely in the mix and he’s done a great job here. I want to sit down and meet with him immediately. There’s some really good candidates, Troy’s definitely in the mix.”
“I want somebody that’s going to challenge me,” added Haviland. “I’m not a guy hiring a “yes” guy and somebody that’s just going to agree with me on everything. I want somebody that’s going to push me and help us win. You’ve got to have chemistry with your assistant coach, that will be something I’m looking for too. It doesn’t matter if he’s been a head coach at this level or a level below; I want the best candidate to help us succeed.
Hershey GM Doug Yingst made clear that Haviland would bring a more aggressive style to this year’s team, making them tougher to play against, especially at their home building.
“I want a more aggressive team; I want a team that’s in your face,” Yingst said. “I want a team that’s tougher and a team that’s tough to play against at home. Our home record last year certainly wasn’t what we wanted it to be or what it should be. I thought it was too easy to come into Giant Center and play against it.
He’s aware Washington has some prospects in the system that could be key players next season, including forward prospects Michael Latta, Garrett Mitchell and Stanislav Gailev.
“I saw them late in the year. The Latta kid and Mitchell I really liked. Doug and I talked about some players this morning and certainly I’m excited to see them and to see who we can get. We’re certainly going to look at everybody to put this team together. Doug knows what he wants and we’re going to go after it.”