The Baltimore Hockey Classic Is Awesome

Baltimore Hockey Classic

I’ll admit, I am writing on this topic from a highly biased perspective, but I am really excited for the Baltimore Hockey Classic. Sure, it’s just a pre-season game. And yes, there is no guarantee that many of the top players for both the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators will even suit up for the game, but I am pretty darn excited for the opportunity to watch a professional ice hockey game in Baltimore, even if it is being played in the (how do I put this nicely?) less than state of the art facility that is First Mariner Arena.  Why am I this excited about a pre-season game? Simply put, I’m a hockey nut, and a Washington Capitals fanatic. And before I get too far off topic, tickets are still available.

The Capitals take on the Predators in the inaugural Baltimore Hockey Classic (photo via SB Nation)

Ever since I first started watching the Washington Capitals back in the late 80′s and early 90′s, I became obsessed. Dale Hunter and Dino Ciccarelli were my favorite players in my formative hockey years. As a result of emulating their feisty style of play, I spent a little too much time in the penalty box when I started playing youth hockey.

I continued to follow the Caps through high school, catching a few live games a year, and suffering through more spring playoff heartbreaks than I like to remember. In college, I would routinely round up a group of friends to grab some $10 “Eagle’s Nest” tickets, and we’d hop the metro down to a game a couple times a month.

During the 2007-2008 season, you could tell something special was happening with the Washington Capitals organization. I had caught about 20 games that season, taking advantage of as many discount ticket promotions as I could get my hands on. Expecting Capitals tickets to be pretty hard to come by for the foreseeable future, a friend (who actually introduced me and Elisa at a pre-Capitals game happy hour several years ago) and I became season ticket holders in time for the playoff series versus the Philadelphia Flyers.

For the past 3 seasons, of the 41 home games, I’ve attended 30-38, with Elisa accompanying me to 10-15 , driving back and forth from my Baltimore row home to the Verizon Center. The traffic can be crazy, and it can be stressful at times, but every time I walk into the Verizon Center and sense the buzz and electricity in the atmosphere, the hassles of the 2-2.5 hour round trip commute disappear.

It’s no secret that the popularity of the Washington Capitals in Baltimore has grown exponentially over the past several years. For years, I thought I was more likely to see a unicorn roaming the streets than someone wearing Capitals gear in Baltimore, but now Caps t-shirts, hats, license plates, stickers are prevalent throughout the city. In 2010-2011, Capitals games on CSN saw a 45% ratings increase in the Baltimore DMA. The great Dan Steinberg wrote an article about the rise of Baltimore Washington Capitals fans last March, and a similar feature article will appear in the upcoming issue of Baltimore Magazine. There are clearly plenty of Capitals fans in Baltimore, and while expanding the fan base may have been a motivating factor, I think its great that the Capitals organization is giving Baltimore hockey fans a chance to see a game in Charm City.

What do I hope for from the Baltimore Hockey Classic? I hope it will be a good time. I hope it will give people who aren’t crazy enough to drive to the Verizon Center from Baltimore on a week-day a chance to catch a game. I hope it attracts some new fans, and old fans who haven’t been to a game in a few years. I hope it becomes a yearly tradition, that will eventually be held in the new Baltimore arena (if/when it gets built). I hope the Baltimore Hockey Classic sells out, and leads to Baltimore getting an AHL team, In part because I’d love to watch the AHL’s Hershey Bears (the Washington Capitals AHL affiliate) without having to take a 2 hour trek up I-83, but mostly because it would be great to have an AHL team close by.

Do I have high hopes for the inaugural Baltimore Hockey Classic? Absolutely. Unrealistic hopes? That remains to be seen. However the actual game turns out, I’m just excited to see ice hockey back in Baltimore…and the 10 minute commute to a Capitals game is going to be pretty sweet as well.

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UPDATE: For out of town Capitals fans heading to the game, if you want a place to grab some quick food and/or a beer or three, here are two options, each within 2 blocks of the arena.

Alewife: If you want Baltimore’s Best Burger, this “gastropub” is the place for you. Order a side of herbed duck fat fries to go with the burger, and wash it down with one of their 38 beers on draught.

Pratt Street Ale House: With an extensive menu featuring sandwiches, quesadillas, sliders, burgers and entrees, Pratt Street Ale House has something for everyone, but is better known for its cellar-brewed Oliver Ales. Nine regular draughts, three smooth poured ales, three hand pumped cask ales, and several “guest draughts” (which is a nice way to say Bud Light, Yuengling, Stella Artois, etc) and 21 bottled beers will give you plenty to think about when ordering a pre-game beer.

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  1. Caps FnVA

    considering that Baltimore has lost 3 AHL teams, I don’t see that hapenning

    • Brandon

      While I agree the getting another AHL team is unlikely, keep in mind the Baltimore Bandits moved out after the 1996-1997 season. Baltimore has seen a serious revitalization since then, with a lot of positive changes and developments in the city. I was mostly tongue in cheek with that comment, tying in my excitement about seeing the Caps close to home with a hope that I could do the same with the Bears, but there has been ample speculation that an AHL team will be courted with the development of the new arena.

    • steve webster

      Baltimore lost 3 ahl teams because of the arena. If a new arena does get built as is planned, i am sure an ahl team would succeed here. I would much rather support an ahl team than the crapitals any day!!!!

  2. Pingback: Caps Today, 9/15 | Caps Today

  3. BaltimoreBerserk

    Alewife is good, but if you are trecking to Baltimore, check out . Rated as one of the USA’s best beer bars. 2nd to none in the area. It’s Mecca for beer.

    • Brandon

      Max’s has an incredible beer selection, but my focus was on options close to First Mariner Arena. With a Tuesday night game starting at 7:00 p.m., anyone traveling from outside the area will have a pretty difficult time getting to Fells point, parked, a beer or two, then back to First Mariner Arena in time for the start of the game.

  4. Pingback: Caps Today, 9/15 | Sports News

  5. Doomer

    I miss the AHL teams, but I’m not a Caps fan at all. I don’t understand how Baltimore fans dislike the Nats, dislike the Skins, but like the Caps…we’re Baltimore, C’mon Man!

    • Brandon

      Haha…I’ll admit, I appreciate the passion for Baltimore, but I don’t understand this line of thinking. Why should Baltimore fans have an automatic dislike of any Washington team? If you’re talking about disliking actual rival teams, the Steelers, Bengals, Browns, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Penguins and Flyers come to my mind.

      The Ravens and Redskins are in different conferences, and play each other every 4 years in a game that matters. More often than not, the Redskins doing well can HELP the Ravens playoff position by adding a loss to the column of other AFC teams. The Orioles and Nationals are in different leagues, with only a few inter-league games a year having any impact on each other.

      There has never been a Baltimore counterpart to the Capitals, who practiced in Anne Arundel county at Piney Orchard Ice Rink for many years, with Capitals players making their homes in neighborhoods that fall in the Baltimore market. The Capitals may play in D.C. but for most hockey fans that grew up rooting for the Orioles and eventually the Ravens, the Capitals ARE the home town team.

      • steve webster

        The Capitals are not our home team…they just happen to be the closest hockey team to Balimore. I know many hockey fans in this area that don’t like the Capitals at all

        • Brandon

          The Capitals are the team that has had the vast majority of their games airing locally in the Baltimore market for well over 20 years now, first on Home Team Sports, now on Comcast SportsNet. If you want to quibble over “home team” perhaps you’ll accept “local team”?

          I’m sure there are hockey fans that don’t like the Capitals, but I am equally sure the number of Capitals fans far exceed them.

    • steve webster

      I agree, doomer. I hate Washington because they have always felt that baltimore is inferior to their city. I hate all Washington teams, especially the crapitals. I LOVE the PENS even if they do play in Pittsburgh…and yes, i do hate the Steelers. LET”S GO PENS!!!!!

      • Brandon

        it pains me to approve this comment! A Ravens fan cheering for a Pittsburgh team. Shame on you sir :-)

        • steve webster

          football and hockey are 2 difeerent sports. I have been a Penguins fan since they entered the league…before the capitals ever existed…sorry

          • Brandon

            Only joking!

          • Mark

            The Capitals are 100% the NHL home team of Baltimore, like it or not. They played in Landover forever, practiced at Piney, so the MD connection has been here since ’74, so it is therefore the NHL team of Baltimore, and if you ask my opinion, MD as well. Respect the fact of people liking teams before others existed, but if you liked the Pens before 1974, who did you like in Football back then? I would think Redskins or Colts.

  6. Jay

    I’m a Baltimore boy who will be at the game tonight showing support for hockey in Bmore. I’m going to the game with my friend who is a die hard Caps fan. He is a Baltimore boy too. We both love the Ravens and the Os, and while I do follow the Caps, I cannot bring myself to whole heartedly root for a DC team. I grew up watching and playing hockey but never having a hometown team always rubbed me the wrong way. I wll be rocking my Redwings Jersey tonight at the game in support of Hockey in my hometown. It may take a new downtown arena, but Baltimore deserves and should be able to support an AHL and hopefully one day an NHL team. Go Wings!

    • Brandon

      Hope you enjoyed the game. Man, it was a mess out there. Wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t another game until after the new arena gets built. Either that, or the First Mariner Arena officials will need to get the ice ready a couple days ahead of time so it can set properly.

  7. If anything, this event was purely to extend the brand of the Capitals to Baltimore. At the very least, it provided some local businesses with a little more traffic than they probably expected (although they should have). I think we need to cut some slack to the organizers — they took a great idea and made it work for the first year they tried it. If they do it again next year, it will get better, and so on and so forth. I give tons of credit to event planners in Baltimore for scheduling this Capitals game, the Grand Prix that was held a little over 2 weeks ago, and what I expect will be many more awesome, classically un-Baltimore events that will attract people to the city.

  8. steve webster

    I have always been a fan of both Baltimore football teams…had season tix for the Colts for the last 4 years they played here. i would NEVER be a fan of the Deadskins, or any Washington team for that matter

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