IT APPEARS that a labor dispute may keep National Hockey League teams from taking to the ice this season. In Baltimore the news has made little difference; we haven't had professional ice hockey here since 1975.
But if you are an ice hockey fan who loves goals and the on-ice fisticuffs, you should have been around when the Baltimore Orioles ice hockey team (no relation to the baseball Orioles) took to the ice in Carlin's Ice Rink, located at Park Heights at Reisterstown Road. The games were part hockey, part brawl.
For example, take the night of Dec. 3, 1933. Dozens of city policemen, nightsticks in hand, charged up the steps leading to the entrance of Carlin's -- then home to the Orioles hockey team. Rushing inside, they found their work cut out for them.
Fist fights were going on all over the arena: Players vs. players, fans vs. fans, and fans vs. players. This was hockey Baltimore style.
It took the police an hour to quell the disturbance. The game was between the Orioles and the Crescent Athletic Club of New York. The Orioles won, 5-0.
The series of fist fights began on the ice in the first period after the Orioles scored the first goal. An Oriole and a Crescent began fighting and were banned from the ice for five minutes.
But subsequent fights broke out on the ice and in the stands. It was ice hockey Baltimore style. For Baltimore ice hockey fans, fighting was as important as scoring. And the former was thought to be the bigger draw.
By 11:30 the police had the situation under control. The fans and the players went their separate ways. One more Orioles' ice hockey game (with accompanying melee) was in the record books.
Some 40 years later, Herb Keough, a wing on that Oriole team, was reminiscing: "For all that roughhouse fighting, we were all little guys. I was only 5 feet 4 inches and weighed 135 pounds. Those big guys playing today would kill us."
The Orioles were sold in 1940 by John J. Carlin to local sports interests. Sometime during World War II the Orioles became the Coast Guard Cutters and near the end of the war the team folded.
After the war, hockey came back to Baltimore in the form of the Baltimore Clippers, playing in the Eastern (and minor) League. In 1956 the franchise was moved to Charlotte, N.C., because Carlin's rink burned down on the night of Jan. 23, 1956, and the team had no place to play.
In 1962, the Civic Center opened and the minor league Clippers "came home."
According to Robert C. "Jake" Embry, who was president of the Clippers organization, "We played the likes of Buffalo and Providence, before crowds that ranged from 5,000 to an occasional sellout of 12,000." But with the decline of downtown, before the renaissance and the Inner Harbor drew people back, hockey fans failed to support the team. The final blow came in 1975 when a rival group decided to bring in a major-league hockey team from the World Hockey Association, the Blades, who had been the Michigan Stags. The Clippers disbanded (Jan. 31, 1975), and the Blades died in June of that same year.
"Today," Mr. Embry says, "Baltimore can't have major-league hockey here because of the proximity of the Washington Capitals. And the city doesn't seem to support minor-league hockey. So we just don't have ice hockey in Baltimore."
Some fans of the old Baltimore Orioles ice hockey team may have another explanation for the failure of ice hockey to take hold in Baltimore today. It's the way the game is played: plenty of scoring, not enough fighting.