Hockey in Baltimore is back! Well, at least for one night. The Washington Capitals will take on the Nashville Predators at the 1st Mariner Arena on Tuesday, September 20th in the Baltimore Hockey Classic. The announcement came today in a press conference at the arena hosted by Capitals general manager George McPhee, 1st Mariner Arena/SMG general manager Frank Remesch, and President of the Baltimore City Council, Bernard C. “Jack” Young. Former Capital and current CSN analyst, Alan May (@MayHockeyCSN on twitter), was the Master of Ceremonies.
As WNST primary owner Nestor Aparacio will tell you, the Caps are the fastest growing brand in Baltimore, so it is no surprise that the club and the city got together to work out a deal for this event. Washington Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis is a forward thinker, a wizard at marketing, and he has made every effort to promote his hockey team in an area that has a passion and history for the sport.
“Baltimore is a great hockey market with a long hockey tradition, and some talented NHL players and coaches have come through that city,” said Washington Capitals president Dick Patrick. “The Capitals had an AHL affiliation with the Baltimore Skipjacks from 1988 to 1993, and we always have received strong support from Baltimoreans. This preseason game is an opportunity for us to take Caps hockey to them.”
Patrick hit the nail on the head and McPhee was quick to point out at today’s press conference that he was happy to hear that the Baltimore-Washington rivalry has been put aside for a show of solidarity for his talented and exciting hockey team.
“I was really pleased with the article in The Washington Post last week that talked about how many people in Baltimore are following the Caps, they don’t root for any other teams in Washington but they root for the Caps, which is kind of neat. So it is really fortuitous that we were working on this announcement and on this game, and we are announcing it today, it surfaced last week, and it’s worked out very nicely,” said a visually pleased McPhee about the support the Caps are getting from Baltimore.
With all of the success the Caps are having in DC and with over 100 games in a row now sold out, one might wonder why Leonsis, Patrick, and McPhee would consider hosting a game in a smaller sized arena up I-95?
“We can only seat 18,000 people in our building. There are other ways that people have to see our product, and we are selling out every night in Washington so we will take our product on the road from time to time. Baltimore has been a great professional hockey market for several years and we look forward to playing here and bringing our product to you,” added McPhee on the rationale for choosing Charm City for this event.
Not only do the Caps have a history in Baltimore with the Skipjacks in the late 80’s and early 90’s but the link to Baltimore with the Nashville organization is a good one as well. The Predators General Manager, David Poile, was the Capitals GM who helped move the Washington farm team to Baltimore during his tenure and the Predators current and only head coach in their 10 plus year history, Barry Trotz, coached the Skipjacks in Baltimore as a member of the Washington organization. McPhee agreed that the connection with the GM and coach from the music city was another story line to the Baltimore Hockey Classic.
“That just seemed to work out and it is a real nice fit, but it’s nice that David will be back in the building and obviously he had the team here for a good number of years,” finished McPhee on the preseason matchup.
Every Washington Capitals full-season account holder will have the opportunity to purchase tickets for the Baltimore Hockey Classic beginning Wednesday, April 13 at 10 a.m. Details on ticket availability and pricing will be sent to full season-ticket holders when they become available. All other fans interested in attending the event are encouraged to purchase their tickets when they go on sale on Saturday, April 16 at 10 a.m. Also, check out @WNST on Twitter or go to WNST.NET for more details on how to purchase tickets this Friday, April 15th.
Kudos again to the Washington Capitals, 1st Mariner Arena, and the city of Baltimore for creating the Baltimore Hockey Classic.
– When asked afterwards about what type of playoff series he expected with the New York Rangers McPhee made a point to talk about the balance in the NHL and the difficulty in winning in the post season.
“There will be a lot of hitting, there is in every playoff series. The league is so good now, it is hard just to make the playoffs and 14 teams were eliminated yesterday and some real good ones. Now you’ve got 16 teams and there really isn’t much of a difference between team one and team number 16 or team number one and team number eight in the conference. Look at the wins, there is not much difference. So we are just happy to be in the playoffs and we are ready to go to work on Wednesday and hope we have some good fortune.”
– McPhee also announced on Monday morning that the team has signed forward Mike Knuble to a one year contract extension. #22 was on the second half of a two year, $5.6M deal and this extension is reportedly for $2M for 2011-12. A 6’3”, 227-pound right wing, Knuble (kuh-NOO-buhl) recorded 40 points (24 goals, 16 assists) and 36 penalty minutes while playing in 79 games with the Capitals this season. The 38-year old, who ranked third on the team in goals, became the eighth active player in the league to have scored at least 20 goals in eight straight seasons. Knuble finished the season with 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in his last 14 games and his 24 goals were the third-most for all players aged 35 and older, trailing only Martin St. Louis (31) and Teemu Selanne (31).