Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs
On the second day of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Washington Capitals selected Cassius “Bear” Hughes with the 148h pick overall. Hughes, who is 6’1”, 165 pounds, was born in Post Falls, Idaho on May 30, 2001.
While Hughes’ real name is Cassius, he’s been called “Bear” for most of his life. Once his mother called his elementary school to say that “Cassius will not be in today” and Bear asked her, “Who’s Cassius?”.
Hughes played with the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League (WHL) for the 2019-20 season, after having played with them for two regular season games and three playoff games the prior season.
In 2019-20, Hughes scored 16 goals and recorded 31 assists in 61 games played, and was selected as the team’s Rookie of the Year. Prior to that, he played for the Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) in 2018-19.
Before that, he lived at home with his family. His path to the WHL was not the normal path that prospects took.
Hughes was the sixth child in a family of 10 children, including seven boys and three girls, with the last five children all being boys. All the boys in the family played hockey of some sort. His older brother, Rance, played junior hockey with the Spokane Braves and the St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
The parents themselves were involved in other sports during their lives, with his mother coming from a family of baseball players and his father was a wrestler and a football player.
The Hughes got involved in hockey when son Rance became interested in the game. Rance originally played roller hockey, then attended a hockey game, and eventually took skating lessons. All of the brothers followed Rance into hockey.
For most of his life, Bear played hockey on teams based on the Coeur d’Alene rink that his dad, Vincent, managed. In the summer, he would pass pucks to Tyler Johnson, who would go on to play for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who spoke about Bear Hughes, saying, “He’s a rink rat. He’s a guy that’s not really gonna come out and talk, but what I really liked about working with him was, if there was anything I saw or wanted him to do, I could tell him, and he was a guy who listened to you and was very coachable. He’s a guy that once you say for him to do something, he’ll be doing it on his own time.”
Back in 2000, the Hughes family got involved with the Kootenay Youth Recreation Organization, which leased and eventually bought the ice arena in Coeur d’Alene. They were able to skate there until its roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow in December 2008. When a larger facility was opened at Frontier Ice Arena, the Hughes family got involved there as well. Vince Hughes was the general manager of the facility.
During the summer of 2018, Hughes accepted an invitation to the Everett Silvertips development camp and had a good camp, and was with the team until the final scrimmage. However, Hughes did not have the body of work that drafted prospects tend to have and was not on the Silvertips’ top prospect list and went back to Post Falls. He played with the Spokane Braves for the 2018-19 season and had 41 goals and 25 assists in 46 games.
Manny Viveiros, the Chiefs’ head coach, said he was instantly impressed by Hughes. “He’s an incredible kid. He’s very humble, kind, good sense of humor, got his feet on the ground. He knows what he wants. He kind of just fell off the tree and right into our laps, so to speak. He has nothing but impressed us.”
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By Diane Doyle