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1st Mariner Arena official wants an NHL regular season game

Poor ice conditions at 1st Mariner Arena put a damper on the inaugural Baltimore Hockey Classic, the city’s first pro ice hockey game in 14 years. Frank Remesch, general manager of 1st Mariner Arena, on Wednesday expressed optimism that the Washington Capitals would play another preseason game there in 2012.

Still, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog that “the people in Baltimore were really terrific to work with.”

A Capitals spokesman said Thursday morning that the team isn’t prepared to make any decisions on potential future preseason games in Baltimore at this time. A source who was close to the negotiations for Tuesday's game told The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday that "talks will begin in the coming days, and a decision should be made in the coming months" about a 2012 Capitals preseason game at 1st Mariner.

Remesch said Baltimore held up its end of the bargain by packing 1st Mariner Arena on Tuesday night, but he admitted that the arena “dropped the ball” when it came to delivering quality ice.

"The good news is that it can absolutely be fixed," he said.

Remesch said he expects the Capitals and city officials to reach a deal to bring the Baltimore Hockey Classic back next year, and he said if 1st Mariner Arena proves to be a viable venue for NHL preseason games in the next few years, he hopes to eventually schedule a regular-season game featuring the Capitals at the arena.

“Hockey is a tough sell in Baltimore,” he said. “The thing about this is that the Capitals have branded themselves. They have arguably the player in hockey [in Alex Ovechkin]. It’s kind of like bringing Bruce Springsteen here. It’s one time. I can’t see this not being a success for the future. After we prove we can do this three, four, five times, I’m going to push for a regular-season game. ... It’s a very, very, very, very long shot. But if you’re a fan, don’t give up hope.”

The issues with the quality of ice aside, arena officials would have to convince the NHL to overlook the fact that the rink at 1st Mariner Arena is four feet shorter than the regulation length of 200 feet.

“That could be a hindrance,” Remesch said.

And if you’re hoping that Baltimore will be able to attract another hockey franchise, even Remesch thinks it will take a new arena for it to happen. He believes a minor-league hockey team would be “a hard sell” at 1st Mariner because the arena is booked with money-making concerns and family shows on weekends.

“It would be hard to fill the building on a Tuesday night,” he said.

But for Tuesday's one-time event, hockey fans packed the house.

Will Baltimore and 1st Mariner Arena get a chance to do it again?

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