How Family Helped Shape Doug Yingst

Editor's Note: This story chronicles Doug Yingst, LVC's director of corporate relations and athletic giving and former president of the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears. It also tells the story of his family's deep and ongoing connection to LVC. Written by Tyler Perhac '19

 

As Hershey's Giant Center erupted while the clock wound down in game 6 of the 2010 Calder Cup Finals, Doug Yingst headed down to ice level to join the Hershey Bears in celebrating back-to-back Calder Cup championships. During the celebration, Yingst was asked if this were the best thing that has ever happened to him.

He responded, “No, having kids was.”

 

Taking Over the Family Business

When he was 10 years old, Doug and his 12-year-old brother Clark competed in the Quebec Peewee International Hockey Tournament. Of all the parents on the team, Doug’s father Ken was the only to attend the trip and watch his sons compete. Host of thousands of fans every year, the tournament is a special experience. To compete with a brother and have one’s father in attendance would be unforgettable. However, a few months after the tournament, Ken passed away. 

It was then that Doug’s illustrious career began. With the passing of his father, Doug stepped up to support his family in running their auction house. 

“[Ken] was a professional auctioneer at an auction house, so that summer at the age of 10, I started auctioneering. I then became a licensed auctioneer with the state of Pennsylvania with a license to sell real estate and do appraisal work.”

In 1981, the Yingsts sold the land of their auction house and relocated it. After years of running the family business, Doug began to look elsewhere for work to help support his family, which includes his son Matt. He wanted to find a career in sports, and preferred hockey, considering his family’s background in the sport. Doug played professionally in Johnstown, his son Matt played professionally in the East Coast Hockey League, his son Dan would go on to win a championship with Lebanon Valley College’s ice hockey team and his uncle, a father-like figure, was an American Hockey League linesman.  With his passion for the game and his family’s involvement in hockey, the sport seemed a no-brainer for a career. 

 

“If you don’t hire me, you’re making the mistake”

With his background in business and marketing, Yingst began to apply for new jobs. He found an opening with the Hershey Bears for promotions and marketing and applied for it. Not long after, Bears general manager and president Frank Mathers invited Doug for an interview. 

“I’ll never forget this, I don’t know how it happened. Frank was a great guy. So the first question was like this, eye to eye, and there was a stack of papers on his desk. Big hands. So he says, ‘So tell me Doug, all these people here applied for this position. What makes you think that you’re better than any of these?’ I never expected that in an interview. That’s verbatim. And so I said, ‘Well Frank, I have no idea who those people are, but I will tell you one thing. If you don’t hire me, you’re making the mistake.’” 

Needless to say, Yingst was hired and began his rise up the ladder of the Hershey Bears. While working for the Bears, he didn’t forget about family. He continued to run the family furniture store, continued his appraisals, and helped coach with the Hershey Bears' youth hockey program. He became the head coach of the Bears' Peewee Quebec team in 1978, and has coached or overseen the team ever since. In the past 41 years, Yingst has never missed the tournament that his family bonded at when he was 10. His grandson Zach also played for the Bears' Quebec team, which Doug coached alongside his son Matt and continued a family tradition. 

When it was Zach’s turn to go, the Yingst family headed to Quebec. The team went on to win back-to-back championships at the tournament. 

“I think winning those two years really hit home for him,” said Zach while reflecting on winning with his family at the tournament. “It came full circle for him. He has been building the team since the '70s, so winning with me was an ultimate goal. I think if he left the Jr. Bears now, he would be happy with what he’s accomplished.” 

 

Importance of Family Support

Doug moved on to become the director of publicity and marketing with the Bears. After a few years, he would work his way up to eventually hold titles of assistant general manager, director of hockey operations, general manager, and president. While with the Bears, Doug won five Calder Cup Championships, as well as achieved numerous personal feats, such as: 

  • The Ken KcKenzie Award in 1988, for outstanding promotion of the Hershey Bears
  • The James C. Handy Memorial Award in 2000 and 2006, for American Hockey League (AHL) executive of the year
  • The Thomas Ebright Memorial Award in 2008, for outstanding service to the AHL
  • Named a chairman of the AHL’s Executive Committee
  • Inducted to the AHL Hall of Fame in 2017

To accomplish all of this certainly isn’t an easy task, but it's easier with the support of his family. 

“Once you’re in and you have the opportunity to go into professional sports, your family has to understand the hours and commitment it takes. In my case, the kids helped me,” said Doug. “If you don’t have that support with your family, then it becomes tenuous and you take that to work.” 

For Doug, sharing these moments were special for his family, but his favorite part of being general manager was building teams. Today, he misses putting the pieces together and being around the team. 

“When you create something like this that you put so much time into, it's like your baby,” said Zach. “Us showing up to watch the games and see what he built, it meant a lot to him to see our support.”

As someone who supported his family growing up and has received the same support, Doug was able to endure a remarkable career with the Hershey Bears, while enjoying it with his grandson Zach. 

“Doug and I have a special relationship where I would sit next to him at every [Bears] game, just he and I. We would literally talk about anything, like the sound system,” said Zach. “When they would lose, he took it to heart. He hated losing. So me being there to talk about anything would help ease his mind so he wasn’t stressing.”

As important as it is that his family continues to support him, Doug’s largely successful career isn’t what he is most proud of. 

“What I’m most proud of in my life is my kids,” said Doug. 

Not only has family support helped Doug, it has helped the rest of the family as well. Between Doug's role in the AHL, Matt’s job as head coach of LVC's women’s ice hockey team, and Dan’s most recent position as chief executive officer of Pittsburgh-based robotics company Redzone, success runs in the Yingst family. 

 

“People don’t retire, they re-wire”

Following his retirement, Doug moved on to support a different kind of family: Lebanon Valley College, where he, his two sons and grandson Zach all attended. Doug's sister is also an LVC alumna, and his mother worked for the school as well. Doug accepted the role of director of corporate relations and athletic giving at LVC. There, he continues to work hard and wants to make a difference, this time for the school his family attended. 

“People don’t retire, they re-wire. So that would be me,” claimed Doug. “I’m not one to sit at home. I can’t. Work is my hobby.”

While working for LVC, Doug still reigns as a chairman on the board for the Hershey Jr. Bears, as well as overseeing the Quebec team. He continues to leave his impact on the youth program that was so important to his family. 

As if that isn’t enough, Doug helps as an assistant coach for LVC's Division III men’s ice hockey team, where Zach now plays. Just as Zach used to watch Bears’ games next to Doug, they get to slightly rewire the tradition. With Doug watching his grandson play and coaching him, they share a special experience and continue to support each other every day. 

From early on, Yingst’s work ethic and inspiration from family helped shape who he became. As much as he supported family growing up, his family supported him throughout his career, which helped make work more enjoyable. In fact, he claims he never worked a day in his life because he enjoyed it so much, and so did his family. 

“I went to work every day and I wanted to go to work. I looked forward to it, it was because of the family background and family support and their understanding.”