After two recent sojourns up Interstate 95 for the Baltimore Hockey Classic, the Washington Capitals have decided to forgo the event and play their entire 2014-15 preseason home schedule at Verizon Center.
“The Baltimore Hockey Classic was a terrific event and we were overwhelmed with the support from the city of Baltimore, Baltimore Arena and our fans in Maryland, but after evaluating all of our options the decision was made to play all home preseason games at Verizon Center next season,” a team spokesman said in an e-mail Thursday.
This came as little shock to the folks in Baltimore, based on how facility issues marred the past two events.
“I honestly never thought they were coming back,” Baltimore Arena General Manager Frank Remesch told CSN this week. “Really, we needed to be perfect. Everything is magnified when you host one game a year, and if they’re going to give up a home gate and travel to a smaller venue, then we need to be perfect and we weren’t.”
That CSN article does a solid job outlining the issues Baltimore Arena — formerly 1st Mariner Arena — experienced when the Capitals took the ice there in 2011 and 2013, missing the sandwiched season because of the NHL lockout. In 2011, the building’s first ice hockey game since 1997, “the playing conditions proved subpar with ice melting and puddles forming on the playing surface.” Last season, a cracked glass pane crashed onto Alex Ovechkin. Here’s colleague Katie Carrera on the conditions from 2013, when the Capitals lost in a shootout to the Bruins:
The Baltimore Arena was colder than it was two years ago, and there weren’t any puddles forming lakes around the rink. But the ice quickly grew choppy and full of ruts each period, making caution a necessary focus for players.
Passes and shots, rolled and bounced unpredictably all over the rink. Perhaps the best example was when Mike Green was unable to stick handle down center ice during the shootout because the puck started bobbling the moment he tried to pull it back across.
“First five minutes [ice] is well but after it’s kind of, you can’t hold the puck you can’t shoot it and you’re afraid to go to the boards because it’s too dangerous out there,” Alex Ovechkin said. “I think in the third period, the end of the game we start to feel little better. It’s end of the game and you get into the game, you get good sweat and [you want to] win. But first couple periods it was hard to be out there because you know it’s kind of dangerous out there and you see what happen with the glass. It’s kind of scary.”
So not exactly sterling reviews. Washington’s preseason schedule is expected to be announced later this month.