Let me start off by being completely generous and magnanimous in saying that First Mariner Arena is, well, a dump. The building is old, so the sightlines are terrible, meaning that where we were sitting, we literally could not see the goal the Caps shot on twice, which led to every single person in our section standing up to see when the Caps entered the attacking zone and blocking the tiny video screen and glared out larger projection screens set up there.
And because it’s old, getting in was a nightmare, because we walked in one door and had to cross over and go through the multitudes coming in from the other doors to get into our section. I’m not sure the ushers or the concessions staff were used to the nuances of a hockey crowd, so most of them spent the night looking confused and terrified, letting people wander in and out during play, serving too much alcohol, and I was pretty sure if I ordered any meat or meat-related products from the concessions, I was going to get ptomaine, so I stuck with a pretzel. On the other hand, it was sure nice of the local parking garages to give us a discount and only charge us $20 up front to park.
And the heat, my God, the heat. It turned the ice into soup, and I was genuinely worried for the safety of the players. It started in pre-game when one of the on-ice staff suddenly lost his footing and tumbled over. I’m surprised poor Mike Green didn’t start beating the glass in frustration after the fourth or fifth time he fell over. There was one point where Michal Neuvirth went behind the net to stop a puck, and it just died a few feet away. The bottom line is, as much as an AHL franchise or ECHL franchise would be welcome in Baltimore (hell, I only live about five minutes away from downtown), it shouldn’t even sniff the idea of one until it gets a new building. You can’t play 41 there.
As much as I harp on the negatives of the building, I was just glad hockey was back, especially after how terrible this summer has been. It was just great to see the team again in those crisp red uniforms, and Nashville’s beautiful new uniforms (one of which I plan on getting as soon as practicable). It was just great to see Ovi and Backy and MarJo and Neuvy again — like I was seeing friends at school that had gone away for the summer and were now back.
Insofar as analysis of the game is concerned, there’s not much I can say considering the circumstances. Most of the regular starters weren’t playing, since it’s the first preseason game, and the ice was a mess, so it’s hard to infer anything about what the team really “looks like”. I was impressed by D.J. King’s play. Marcus Johansson looked superb. Neuvirth was solid (and his new equipment is great).
So despite all the bad stuff, it ended up being a night to celebrate, and a really unique experience, from seeing the finest denizens of Dundalk and Violetville in all their sartorial splendor, to the ladies from one of the local gentleman’s clubs and their escorts making the rounds, to all the local legends from Baltimore and D.C. that made the trip. Hockey’s back everyone. Let’s all enjoy the ride.