By Don Scott
The 2019 Hershey Bears Hall of Fame official induction ceremony took place prior to the start of the Sunday, December 15 game in the Giant Center.
The inductees in the Player Category included the late Wally Kilrea and Frank Mario, along with Don Biggs and Ross Fitzpatrick. The Builder Category recipient was John Paddock, and the General Category award went to the late sportswriter Steve summers.
Earlier in the day, the inductees, their families and Hall of Fame committee members met at the Hershey Hotel, where each of the inductees in attendance had a chance to talk about their time in Hershey.
Biggs and Fitzpatrick were players and Paddock was the coach of the team that won 50 regular season games for the first time, then set an AHL record of 12 consecutive playoff victories, to claim the 1988 Calder Cup.
Don Biggs (1987-1990) scored 79 regular season points and added 16 more in the 12 post-season games. His 103 points in the 1988-89 season made him one of 12 different players for Hershey with 100 points.
“What makes this honor special to me is to be going in with my former coach and teammate, who had a profound effect on the player I think I became,” said Biggs. “I’ve been truly blessed in my career because I played in a lot of great cities, but none better than where I am today.
“Being part of that 1987-88 team was a kick start for me,” continued Biggs. “It showed me what it was like to be a pro, along with the great talent we had, and I was able to fit in because I didn’t want to let them down. We knew what we had to do, played hard, had a lot of fun, but never got to the point where we worried that we couldn’t win, no matter who we played against. To be part of a 50-win team and then go 12-0 in the playoffs was very special to me. The more I get away from the game, the more awards like this mean so much more.”
Biggs was inducted into AHL Hall of Fame in 2018.
Ross Fitzpatrick (1984-90) became one of six Hershey players to score 50 goals when he led the AHL in 1985-86, and one of 12 different Hershey players with 100 points in 1989-90, hitting the 103 mark. In the 1988 Calder Cup, run he led the playoff scoring with 11 goals.
“It’s a great honor for me to go into the Hershey Hall of Fame with two guys I spent a lot of time with,” said Fitzpatrick. “What I remember most about my time here was in 1985 when the Flyers sent me here and I was told by Mike Keenan that it is a nice place to raise a family. In hindsight, I certainly agree with that, but at the time it kind of hurt.
“That Cup year we were a tight bunch on and off the ice,” added Fitzpatrick. “I still have a lot of friends here and look forward to talking to everyone later.”
John Paddock (1985-89) was the first Hershey coach with 50 wins and is the only coach with three 40-win seasons. His 181 coaching wins are ranked number three for the Bears. In 2010, he was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame.
“Ross and Don both mentioned about how important family was to all of us, plus the people away from the game like Mr. McKinney, and of course Frank Mathers and Doug Yingst just made everything work out for us,” said Paddock. “The run I had here during my four years was tremendous because of the players we had, with everything led by Frank.
“That special year we had five or six guys who had at least 16 points during those 12 playoff games,” Paddock continued. “There wasn’t any one player or one line that did the job. It was a deep, strong team on and off the ice. The special thing about winning the championship is when you see the guys again years later, you can just start off like it was just yesterday and that’s very special.”