Steve Kolbe, the radio voice of the Capitals, was born and raised in Baltimore. As a kid, he learned to skate at the ice rink at Patterson Park "before they had a bubble on that thing." He watched the Baltimore Clippers' home games at the Civic Center and tuned in for Capitals whenever they were on TV. Needless to say, Kolbe is pretty pumped up for the inaugural Baltimore Hockey Classic.

"I can't tell you how excited I am for September to come around because getting back [to 1st Mariner Arena] is going to bring back some great memories," Kolbe said via phone Friday. "Hopefully there are some youngsters who will come to that game and start to enjoy it even more than maybe they do now. Who knows, maybe one is going to be sitting where I am sometime in the future."


Kolbe has been a member of the Capitals' broadcast team since 1995. He picked up broadcasting as a freshman at Michigan State, and after he returned from college, he got his big break in the radio booth broadcasting Baltimore Skipjacks games. When he started with the Capitals, he worked as the color guy alongside Ron Weber.  "I learned from one of the best," Kolbe said. After Weber, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010, retired in 1997, Kolbe took over as the play-by-play announcer.

Kolbe said that since he used the Patterson Park rink as his "personal playground," interest in hockey "has grown by leaps and bounds in the area." There are more rinks to play at now, more young players have been lacing up the skates and more high schools in Maryland have hockey programs.

Given how popular the Capitals, who advanced to the second round of the playoffs with Saturday's win over the Rangers, have become in the area, Kolbe said the inaugural Baltimore Hockey Classic should be a sellout.

"I think it's going to be received very well. ... I know the Capitals are looking forward to it," he said. "They want to be the region's team, and they're working hard toward that. I think success is the catalyst for getting more fans, and whenever we come up to Baltimore, everyone is always excited to have the Capitals there."

And Kolbe, a Ravens season ticket holder, thinks Baltimore can support a minor-league hockey team -- something we haven't had here since the Bandits left in 1997 -- though he might be a bit biased.

"You're looking at a city that is a rabid sports town," Kolbe said. "It's not out of the question that another team could make their way back to Baltimore. I think it would be great for youth hockey in terms of creating more of a base. We need to start there and get more kids involved in the game of hockey, because it is, at least in my opinion, the greatest sport there is going on."

I can't argue with that last part, so here's hoping Kolbe is right about hockey one day returning to Baltimore on a full-time basis. Puck lovers packing 1st Mariner in September would be a step in the right direction.

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