Eight months ago, I wrote an open letter to Ted Leonsis, asking him, on behalf of Baltimore hockey fans, to consider bringing the Washington Capitals (and Wizards) to Baltimore to play a few games. Here’s a sample of what I wrote:
I would like to reach out to you on behalf of the sports fans of Baltimore. There have been rumors going around that you are considering bringing Wizards Basketball and Capitals Hockey to Baltimore. Well, at least for a night or two. Let me be among the first to say….PLEASE DO!!! There are thousands of basketball and hockey fans in the Greater Baltimore area who would love to check out the NBA and the NHL, and not have to drive an hour or more to do so.
Baltimore has a love for the game of hockey. Who will ever forget the years of the Baltimore Skipjacks? And yes, the Skipjacks, at one time, were the minor league affiliate of the Capitals. Look at some of the names that came thru the Skipjacks franchise: Don Beaupre, Phil Bourque, Steve Carlson, Olaf Kolzig, Bob Errey, Keith Jones, and Marty McSorley, just to name a few. Baltimore would love a chance to see Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Fleischmann, Mike Knuble, and others play here. I know that there are thousands of hockey fans in this city that would love a chance to watch NHL hockey in their backyard. There are also a lot of Capitals season ticket holders, who live in Baltimore, that would love to enjoy a game without the hassle of a long drive or metro ride.
Here is what I suggest. Present four games from each team, two preseason games, and two regular season games? I think that if you start there, you could test it out to see if Baltimore would support having NHL and NBA games. I do believe that you would find a new source of fans, and revenue, from those games.
Baltimore sports fans would love to enjoy Caps hockey and Wizards basketball. We don’t hate all Washington sports teams, just the Redskins! (Sorry, Ravens fans will never cheer for the Skins!)
Just give us a chance. I think you would like the outcome.”
Well, the team has answered! And hopefully, you will be one of the thousands that will purchase tickets to the 1st Baltimore Hockey Classic – Washington Capitals vs. Nashville Preadators, Thursday, September 20th, 7pm at the First Mariner Arena. Tickets are available now at TicketMaster, and at the First Mariner Arena box office.
As the press conference was happening one week ago, you could feel the excitement in the room, as Baltimore was getting ready for professional hockey once again. The announcement was made by Arena GM Frank Remesch, Baltimore City Council President Bernard Young, and Caps’ GM George McPhee. McPhee stated that the Capitals are looking to build a better relationship with the city of Baltimore. The team has done this by presenting this game, but also, providing donations to local charities like the Patterson park Youth Club, as they try to get more kids into hockey.
Baltimore represents a little over 10% of the season ticket holder base. Presenting a game in Baltimore will provide the team with the chance to promote the game in Baltimore directly, showcasing the stars that they could see on a daily basis. And what a better way to advertise to Baltimore fans, present a game right in their backyard.
We, as hockey fans, asked for this. Now, we have to deliver. This is our chance to, not only show the Capitals that we can support the team should they decide to present more than one game per year, but to show the NHL Universe that Baltimore has hockey fans, possibly enough to support its’ own franchise. If you don’t believe that providing an outstanding showing to a league won’t bring you a team, take a look at the NBA and what happened when they had to present games in Oklahoma City due to Hurricane Katrina. Three years after those games, a franchise relocated there. Now, I’m not saying that will happen here. But, let’s show everyone what Baltimore is made of. That we support all sports, not just baseball and football.
Before I forget, let me also thank Frank Remesch, the General Manager of the First Mariner Arena. Remesch led the campaign to bring the Caps here to play this game. Remesch has done a lot to promote the Arena, and make it a must-stop for any tour. Ever since he was able to get Rolling Stones to perform at the Arena in 2006, the Arena is no longer over-looked as a place to stop and perform. Music and Sporting events would stop in Washington and Philadelphia, but would skip Baltimore. Remesch made it his mission to get those events in Baltimore as well, and it seems to be working. Remesch, and his team, worked for a long time to get this deal done. It is expected that this preseason event will draw at least 8,000 fans. A sell-out, however, would basically guarantee a repeat engagement, if not more.
So, come downtown, and enjoy a night of hockey as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Knuble, and the Washington Capitals battle Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and the Nashville Predators on September 20th. And, if you see them, say “Thank You” to Ted Leonsis and Frank Remesch for getting this done. I know I will.