Let’s bring hockey back to Baltimore

April 17, 2011 | Paul Hoke

This afternoon, while watching the Washington Capitals lose Game Three of their first round playoff series with the New York Rangers, I did something, I hadn’t intended on doing.  I purchased 3 tickets to the Baltimore Hockey Classic in section 110, for me, my dad, and my son.  I wasn’t going to do it, because in my opinion, the tickets are over priced.  But it’s a chance for me to share an evening of hockey with my dad and my son in Baltimore.  My son is 11, and that chance has NEVER happened in his lifetime.  While I remember going to the Civic Center/Baltimore Arena with my dad to watch the Skipjacks play, I have never had the chance to take my son to a professional hockey game in Baltimore.  We’ve been down to the Verizon Center for Caps games, but never in Baltimore.  So from this….comes my simple plea….bring minor league hockey back to Baltimore!!

Baltimore will never host an NHL team.  Besides the lack of fan support, we are smack dab in the middle of the Washington Capitals market.  And that’s fine with me.  But there is no reason why Baltimore shouldn’t have an AHL team.  I went to almost every Bandits’ game during their two year stay here in Charm City, and as I have said before, my dad took me to countless Skipjacks games, before their departure in 1993.  And if the ratings are any clue, Baltimore would be a hot spot for AHL hockey.

The Baltimore market is ripe for another shot at pro hockey.  And we have a proud hockey history to show for it.  Also, a little known fact is, if not for the St. Louis Blues, Baltimore would have been granted an NHL team back in 1967.  The Wirtz family, who owns the Chicago Blackhawks, also owned the sad St. Louis Arena back in the 1960’s.  They were looking to unload the arena, and pressed the NHL to give the city of St. Louis, which hadn’t even submitted a formal bid, the final expansion team instead of Baltimore, which had proudly supported the Clippers since their inception in 1962.  You can understand how tough it was for me in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals when the Blackhawks played the hated Philthy Flyers.  On one hand, it was the Flyers, who I have hated for two decades.  On the other, were the Blackhawks, who are the sole reason Baltimore wasn’t home to an NHL team.  It was tough, but I rooted for Chicago.  After all, I hate Philly more, and if not for Chicago, the Capitals might not exist.

Either way, the point here is, that we need to do what we can to bring professional hockey back to Baltimore.  The Baltimore Hockey Classic is a good start.  Building a new arena, would be a great second step.  Instead of holding some stupid Indy car race downtown, that money should be put into the finds for a new arena.  One that would draw any NHL team to look at Baltimore as a viable minor league city.  During their run, the Skipjacks were affiliated with the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals.  The Bandits were the Anaheim Mighty Ducks’ affiliate, so we have proven that, we love the Caps, and it doesn’t matter who the parent NHL team is, we will still support them.  The Capitals’ NHL market will be sustained, while we enjoy hockey here in Baltimore.

I am in the process of drafting a letter to Baltimore County Councilman, and a close personal friend of mine, Todd Huff, to recommend that Baltimore County work with the City of Baltimore in regards to this plight.

The bottom line is, I want hockey back in Baltimore.  I want hockey back in Baltimore so I can take my son to the games, and so I can take my dad to the games.  And, for one night, just like the night of September 20th, so I can enjoy a night of hockey with the two biggest hockey fans in my family, besides me.  And that that night, could extend over the course of an AHL season.

Let’s band together hockey fans, and do what we can to bring hockey back to Baltimore.  If we can support the Blast and Mariners, I know we can support Baltimore’s next endeavor, into pro hockey.

Let’s make it happen….