Officials at 1st Mariner Arena are close to finalizing a deal with the Washington Capitals to host an NHL preseason game for the second straight year. The second annual Baltimore Hockey Classic will be held Sept. 27.
An announced sellout crowd of 11,082 packed the Arena last September for the first professional ice hockey game in Baltimore since 1997. The Capitals lost, 2-0, to the Nashville Predators. Despite issues with the ice surface during the game, the Capitals will return to the Baltimore market.
"They're doing it the right way," said 1st Mariner Arena general manager Frank Remesch, who estimated a deal is "99 percent" done. "They're selling out every game in D.C. They're looking at it as we have this big, old market up there with hungry fans, and they're going to tap into it."
A team spokesman confirmed that the Capitals are in discussions with 1st Mariner Arena officials but declined further comment.
“I am beyond excited to welcome professional hockey back to Baltimore,” said city council president Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who along with Capitals and Arena officials helped bring the inaugural Baltimore Hockey Classic into fruition. “The fact that the Washington Capitals decided to continue the partnership is further proof that Baltimore is becoming a hockey town.”
Young touted that last September’s event pumped $1 million into the local economy, according to the Maryland Office of Sports Marketing, without relying on subsidies from taxpayers.Remesch said that it is his intention to have tickets on sale for the game by early March.
The inaugural Baltimore Hockey Classic drew puck lovers young and old, with fans of the departed Baltimore Bandits, Skipjacks and Clippers wearing vintage jerseys to the game. But the event also drew criticism from fans and players about the quality of the ice. As the temperature of the Arena rose during the game, puddles began to form on the ice, affecting the quality of hockey.
"Thank God, nobody got hurt," Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin told reporters after the game.
Remesch said the Capitals are working with the Arena to ensure that things run smoother the second time around. 1st Mariner Arena officials plan to crank down the air conditioning before the game and shut down the building to deliveries the day of the game to keep the cool air inside. They will bring in dehumidifiers a week before the game, something that wasn't done last year.
They are also exploring ways to make the ice slightly colder than it was at the last event, and if melting issues still arise during the game, they will do dry cuts with Zambonis between periods instead of spreading water to form a new layer of ice. Remesch regrets doing the latter in 2011.
"The ice sweats everywhere. You call any arena in the nation and I promise you that the ice has sweated before," Remesch said Wednesday. "But that's not an excuse."
Remesch is excited to bring the event back to 1st Mariner Arena, though he also has grander aspirations than an exhibition; he wants to host a regular-season Capitals game at the Arena.
"We're still beating on them about it," Remesch said. "But I don't think it's going to happen."