Two years ago, when the Capitals faced off against the Nashville Predators in the inaugural Baltimore Hockey Classic, players complained about soft ice and dangerous playing conditions.
“Thank God nobody got hurt,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said following the Caps’ 2-0 loss on Sept. 20, 2011.
Tonight, the Caps will return to the 51-year-old 1st Mariner Arena when they face off against the Boston Bruins [Pre-Game Coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. CSN].
Capitals general manager George McPhee said he’s already received assurances that the ice surface will be much better than the one two years ago, when players skated into puddles and had trouble settling the puck.
“It was a hot building, the ice was wet,” McPhee said. “They hadn’t had hockey there in a long time [14 years] and they overlooked some things. You don’t leave your doors open all day long. The heat comes in.”
McPhee said the ice was laid at 1st Mariner Arena two weeks ago and several changes have been made I an effort to have better playing conditions.
“We expect after one experience there it will be a lot better,” he said.
“If there’s more risk than we’re comfortable with then we won’t play in the future. It’s got to be done right or you don’t do it at all.”
Defenseman Karl Alzner described the conditions in 2011 as “smoking hot,” but said he was not concerned about getting injured.
“I worry about embarrassing myself handling the puck,” he said. “Injuries don’t cross my mind. You do notice if it’s softer and what you need to do to your skates. I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I heard rumors they worked out he kinks.”
Several players said they enjoyed the experience of playing in front of a full house in Baltimore two years ago. Alzner called the building “electric” and Nicklas Backtrom said he was surprised by the reception from Baltimore fans.
“It was awesome,” Backstrom said. “The crowd there was very special. I didn’t think hockey was great there. I thought it was only football because [the Ravens] won the Super Bowl. But it was great playing there.”
The Capitals will bring their “A Team” to Baltimore, with Backstrom and Ovechkin joined on the ice by Mike Green and Braden Holtby. McPhee said there is a benefit in extending the Capitals brand as far away from D.C. as possible.
“I think it’s really neat we’re able to move our product around a little bit,” he said. “We did a great job in Washington at generating interest in the sport, we’re sold out again this year.
“We’re doing well in the Hershey [AHL] market and we’re doing well in Reading [ECHL]. Baltimore sort of fits right in. We seem to have a lot of fans there and it’s nice to be able to take the product to them. It’s something we want to do and it’s working out.”