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Hershey Jr Bears

Hershey Jr Bear Hockey: A Testimonial

By Admin, 03/17/23, 2:15PM EDT


Why choose Hershey? Here's why.

If you are still deciding where to place your player for next hockey season, please take a moment to read some of the unsolicited testimonials from parents to the exec leadership about their players’ experience this past season.  Consider what is most important to your player.  If the main goals for your players are to have a place where they will be developed, have personalized attention, a unique & fun experience, and do not want to simply be a number in a sea of 60+ players on the ice, please consider the Hershey Jr Bears program.  We feel the below is a perfect example of the caliber of coaches and programs we offer players in Hershey.  And experiences like these are far more valuable and expresses more of what our program can offer than any season brochure/guide.  Travel registration is now open, be a Bear today! 


*Player names have been omitted out of respect of privacy { }*

My son, {  }, was on this year's HJB Squirt travel team. I wanted to take a moment to thank you both for your roles in cultivating a positive sports culture within the HJB organization and share some positive feedback about our season. 

First, I have to say that {  }'s coaching was OUTSTANDING! Coach Eric (Esser) and {  }'s other coaches were committed to creating a team culture that focused on hard work, respect, civility, and sportsmanship - which are the exact behaviors and values we are trying to cultivate in each of our three children at home! Coach Eric did an excellent job planning practices based on the team's needs, communicating practice plans to the team, and appropriately challenging each player to grow and learn every time they were on the ice. 

Our team manager, Thad Kocuba, did an amazing job keeping the trains running on time and communicating with the team. Coach Chad (Burger), Coach Dan (Hemmerich), and Coach Justin (Bruce) provided the kids with personalized attention and feedback after EVERY. SINGLE. SHIFT. Each coach took the time to get to know the players, which was evident in the level of encouragement and motivation they were able to provide. {  } is now a better, more confident player - and person - thanks to this amazing group of leaders. Personally, I don't understand the obsession with "paid, non-parent head coaches" in travel hockey - these dads did an AWESOME job and treated all their players fairly and respectfully! 

With three kids in hockey at three different levels, we are seasoned hockey parents - and we have seen it all during our eight years in hockey! Being honest, we were VERY reluctant to sign our son up for travel ... however, Coach Eric convinced us to take a chance on him and the HJB Squirt Travel Team, and we're glad we did! To my mind, this season is an example of how travel hockey should be!



Good Morning,

I wanted to reach out to share a few things about our experience this past year with the HJB Squirt travel team.  Our son, { }, was a member of the team with Eric Esser as the head coach.  { } moved from the Vipers to the Bears for the 21-22 season, and we had a fine season that year, and we were happy with his move.  As we looked forward to the 22-23 season, we decided to stay with Hershey even though there was incredible uncertainty regarding what was going to happen with the organization.  In the end, we decided to trust the process and focused on our two main goals for { } as a squirt: to develop as a player through ice time and good coaching.  To say our experience this year met our expectations would be an understatement.  It went beyond our highest hopes for a successful season, and so much of it was directly connected to the fact that Eric Esser was the coach of { }’s team.

We weren’t even sure there would be a squirt team – I think there was something like 7 kids at the first night of evaluations.  And yet Eric (and Thad) were committed to making it work.  In many informal conversations, they asked us to trust the process.  We were nervous – hockey is a huge commitment for us because our kid loves it, and because we live on the West Shore – so even practice nights take a lot of time and energy to make work for our family.  But Eric was able to pull together an amazing group of boys (and 1 girl!) and parents that were committed to the team and the organization.  It was such a special team to be a part of this year, and I cannot thank them enough for what they created for our children. 

The ice time that was afforded to the team was beyond our wildest dreams – more than we would have imagined at the start of the season.  And every practice, Eric had a committed practice plan.  He treated our team like we were in the NHL – the professionalism and commitment he showed to the boys and their development was something I’ve never seen, and { } is involved in quite a few sports at the travel level.  Our boys had so many amazing experiences because of Eric, and Thad’s standing with the HJB organization.  Being a part of the Silver Sticks International Tournament will forever be one of our favorite hockey memories.  Traveling to Canada with our group of players and families was so special, not to mention how cool it was to be a part of our very first pin trading experience.  And I’m sure you know, HJB had the most coveted pins of all!  {  } was able to be a part of the opening ceremonies with Coach Esser, and he was so proud to represent Hershey and his team.  And Eric did this – he made {  }understand how important it was to be a part of this specific team, and taught him to be a leader.  To be frank, we worried that {  } might get frustrated as many of his teammates were new to hockey, or travel hockey.  But Eric taught {  } how to appreciate his role on the team, and absolutely developed him into a better player today than he was when the season began.  He’s a special coach, and we’re so grateful he entered {  }’s life this year, on this team. 

I just wanted you to know how someone like Eric was able to completely transform the experience that {  } and his teammates had, not just as teammates but as hockey players.  Like I said previously, we weren’t even sure there would be a team, and yet in the end it was the best team we had ever been a part of in any sport or organization.   I really believe if Hershey will be able to thrive in the new landscape of central PA hockey, it will be done by people like Eric.  And I just felt like it was important for me to share our experience this year as a member of the HJB travel  family.