Could a pro hockey team thrive in Baltimore today?

When the Capitals and the Predators take the ice at 1st Mariner Arena for Tuesday night's Baltimore Hockey Classic, the two teams will be looking to skate off a little rust, check out a few prospects, maybe try out the new forecheck they just installed in this preseason game. For Baltimore, it means much more.

City officials, led by City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, view this as a showcase game and hope that a strong showing for this NHL exhibition will help attract a professional hockey or basketball team. At the very least, maybe the event will become an annual thing for local puck lovers looking for a convenient hockey fix.


Shameless plug time: I wrote a preview for the Baltimore Hockey Classic for Tuesday's paper, which gave me an opportunity to ask Capitals coach and former Skipjacks forward Bruce Boudreau and Predators coach and former Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz if a hockey team could thrive here today.

Maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part, because I would jump at the opportunity to cover a hockey team in Baltimore. Both coaches told me that we could support a minor-league team.

"I think the Capitals brand has really expanded with the popularity of Alex Ovechkin, not only in the D.C. area," Boudreau told me in a phone interview on Saturday. "I think hockey would really sell in Baltimore. I think it's a great market. I don't know what league, but I think there's an awful lot of hockey people in that area. … I think people would come to it in droves."

Trotz agreed, though he thinks that the city needs to build a new arena first (side note: I'm looking forward to seeing what the rink setup and playing surface looks like at 1st Mariner).

"A minor-league team in Baltimore? Absolutely, with the right facility and the right ownership," Trotz told me when I tracked him down Friday afternoon. "What the Caps have done in the way they have grown their fan base, not just in the D.C. area, but through Baltimore and through Maryland and Delaware, [it shows that people in Baltimore] are passionate about the sport."

With the game expected to be a sellout or close to it, that passion will be on display at Tuesday night's game. I expect to see a lot of Skipjacks and Bandits and Clippers jerseys there in a crowd that will predominantly be rocking the Capitals' red. Will a successful event be enough to pique the interest of a potential owner? And if Baltimore did get a hockey team, could we keep it here?

Your turn: Could pro hockey thrive in Baltimore today?

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