TORONTO, ON — The Hershey Bears knew they had a unique trophy in their possession, but they may not have known how unique it was.
The team also didn't know the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto was looking for the historic item.
On Wednesday, the Bears Vice President of Hockey Operations Bryan Helmer hand delivered the Henri Fontaine Trophy to the Hall of Fame in Toronto. The organization was elated to add it to their collection.
“We knew this trophy existed, had no idea where it was," explained Hockey Hall of Fame Vice President Phil Pritchard.
The Bears reached out to Pritchard and the Hall of Fame nine months ago about the trophy. With an upcoming game in Toronto against the Marlies scheduled for March 29, they decided that would be the perfect time to donate the trophy in-person.
"Fast forward nine months and here we are today, we’ve got the Henri Fontaine Trophy, which is arguably the oldest trophy in minor pro hockey league history, and to add it to our collection today, we’re thrilled," Pritchard said with a smile.
“When I took over this job and I saw it sitting near my office, I thought it was a really cool trophy back then," Helmer said.
"I thought at the time it would be neat if we could it restored not thinking that this is a trophy that the Hall of Fame has been looking for. Then when Kyle Mace did some homework on it and reached out to the Hall of Fame and found out the significance of this trophy and history and how excited the Hall of Fame was to get it, it’s a surreal moment right now and it’s pretty cool."
The trophy was awarded from 1926 to 1936 to the championship team in the Canadian American or Can-Am league that preceded the AHL. Pritchard says the trophy is priceless when it comes to it’s value for hockey history. It will be displayed in the new acquisitions section of the Hall before it is moved to the North America Championship Trophy case.
The Bears visit to the Hall is not just about the trophy.
Rookie speedster Ethen Frank is the fastest pro on blades. Frank recorded a time of 12.915 seconds during the AHL’s skills competition in early February. He’s the only AHL or NHL player to break the 13 second mark, and the Hall of Fame contacted him immediately after his historic lap.
“They had an after party after the skills and I ended up talking to a guy there, and he said someone would come talk to me tomorrow. Sure enough, I got someone’s card and he emailed him right away, obviously, because you wouldn’t want to not do it right," Frank laughed.
"Then we kind of started talking and I was going to ship them originally but then they said, 'You are coming to Toronto, you might as well drop them off yourself,'" Frank explained.
"It’s pretty honoring and pretty cool so I said absolutely I can’t wait, now we’re here, and I don’t even have any words for it.”