Tag: Baltimore

Craig Smith, Chris Bourque

Capitals, Predators avoid injuries on shoddy Baltimore ice


Aside from the occasional 15-year reunion with the NHL, Alex Ovechkin’s statement might be the most common takeaway from typical exhibition games that go the right way: “Thank God nobody got hurt.” That was especially true after the Nashville Predators earned a 2-0 win against the Washington Capitals in the Baltimore Hockey Classic, an exhibition game in which the shoddy ice conditions overshadowed the contest itself.

It’s a real shame, too, because this was the first professional hockey game in Baltimore since 1997 and the Capitals’ most recent visit since 1992, according to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post.

While a Caps spokesman told The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno that the scary-looking cracks (see the bottom of this post) were below the surface of the ice and wouldn’t affect play, the game was marred by poor conditions – cracks or not. Carrera reports that smooth-skating defenseman Mike Green “tumbled twice for no apparent reason” while goalies found themselves “skidding” when they went into the butterfly position. The 1st Mariner Arena opened in 1962 and judging by the feedback of coaches and players, the building definitely showed its age.

From the start of the game, which Nashville won, 2-0, puddles formed all over the ice surface in the noticeably warm 49-year-old arena, sending pucks slip-sliding at unexpected moments and prompting players to hold themselves back at times in order to avoid injury.

“It was hard because the ice was not that good. It was first our game and we didn’t play exhibition,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Of course you try to think about more when you go to the boards and the corners — especially in the corners, ice is not that good. I don’t know how many times today [equipment manager] Brock [Myles] check our skates because of holes.

“The ice was soft but it’s over,” Ovechkin added. “So thank God nobody got hurt everybody feel healthy.”

Along with being a lost opportunity (in some ways) to increase the popularity of the NHL – and particularly the Capitals – in a solid market like Baltimore, some might believe that the substandard conditions also defeated a common purpose of preseason games: evaluating players. Even a blue-collar team like the Predators scaled things back a bit, as head coach Barry Trotz reminded his players to not “be too creative out there.” That being said, Capitals bench boss Bruce Boudreau learned something from the game.

“It’s hard to judge skill,” Boudreau said of assessing talent in the mushy ice, “but it’s always easy to judge effort. Whether you’re in a blinding snow storm or a rain storm, as the Winter Classic was, you can tell.”

Boudreau makes a point, but it’s still disappointing that the game was largely a waste.On Frozen Blog’s John Keeley probably captured the sentiment the best in his Tweet following the game.

Baltimore was a gracious host for NHL hockey Tuesday night. But NHL hockey must have NHL conditions — player safety is non-negotiable.

In case you’re wondering, Chris Mueller and Kyle Wilson scored the Predators’ two goals, while Niclas Bergfors assisted on each tally and Shea Weber also earned a helper. Pekka Rinne ended up with the shutout while Michal Neuvirth was the losing goaltender.

In case you’re still not relieved – and surprised – that the game was reportedly injury-free, take a look at this photo of that cracked ice from Sky Kerstein:


Ice conditions for Capitals-Predators game in Baltimore look awfully dangerous

Baltimore ice

The Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators are due to square off tonight in Baltimore, Maryland at the 1st Mariner Arena to give fans there a taste of NHL action. With Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Suter, and Shea Weber all scheduled to play tonight to give the hockey fans in Baltimore a look at what goes on down the road in D.C. and elsewhere around the NHL, the event is a big deal for the Capitals to spread the game further out around the mid-Atlantic region.

As will happen when you’re playing outside the confines of your home arena, sometimes there will be problems. In the case of 1st Mariner Arena, their problems appear to be major ones that could bring the safety of the players into question. Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times tells us about how cracks in the ice visible as far away as the press box are causing concern for tonight’s scheduled game.

But quietly, players were less than complimentary of the rink, calling it “a little rough” or worse. From a few rows up in the stands, it looked sloppy.

But Boudreau pointed out that players understand the situation.

“They’re aware. They skate on it. They know it better than me. But what can you do? Both teams are there; it’s an ice surface,” he said. “They’ve played on, in their lives, some ice surfaces that weren’t really up to snuff – and I’m not saying this won’t be, but they’re going to be working on it today.”

Update: As of 4 p.m., there were big cracks in the ice visible as high up as the press box.

The NHL likes to do preseason games outside of the home arenas to help expand the visibility of the game and for the Capitals, going into Baltimore for a game more than makes sense. Asking the players to deal with ice that at least looks as bad as this does puts everyone on the ice in jeopardy. Soft ice is one thing, but ice that appears to be damaged with cracks in it comes about as close to possible as being unplayable.

Let’s hope that either the ice is repaired enough to be playable (poorly so, but still) or that they’ll make the right move and postpone the game if the conditions are indeed that terrible.

Update (5:01 p.m.): According to Whyno, a Caps spokesman insists that the cracks that are visible are below the surface of the ice and will not affect play on the ice.

(Photo courtesy of Sky Kerstein on Twitter)