After the NHL’s first game back in Baltimore since 1997, Alex Ovechkin’s statement probably summarized the mood: “Thank God nobody got hurt.” The Washington Capitals star wasn’t talking about playing against rugged Nashville Predators such as Shea Weber, though. Instead, both teams seemed genuinely concerned about the downright scary ice conditions at the 49-year old 1st Mariner Arena.
Players and coaches noted muggy conditions in the locker room and felt that the staff just couldn’t get the arena cold enough for a quality hockey game. Which, again, is pretty reasonable since the building has been around since 1962.
While there certainly were attempts to smooth the cracked ice over with a Zamboni’s worth of good intentions, the exhibition was a missed opportunity at best and a near-disaster at worst.
With that in mind, it’s a bit surprising that 1st Mariner Arena’s general manager Frank Remesch hopes to not just score another preseason game for 2012, but perhaps even bring an NHL regular season game to the Baltimore arena in the future, according to The Baltimore Sun.
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.
“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.
It’s safe to say that having shoddy ice conditions and a non-regulation ice surface go beyond a mere “hindrance” to being a probable deal-breaker (at least for a regular season game). That being said, the Capitals have plenty to gain from expanding the scope of their franchise’s influence, so it would make sense for them to at least be open-minded to return for another preseason game or two.
The 1st Mariner Arena staff might want to take care of their ice conditions before dreaming too big, though.