The Capitals have put the Baltimore Hockey Classic on hold for at least one season, and will play all of their home preseason games at Verizon Center next fall.
“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,” a team spokesman said in an email, “but after evaluating all of our options the decision was made to play all home preseason games at Verizon Center next season.”
The decision did not come as a surprise to Baltimore Arena general manager Frank Remesch, who accepted full responsibility this week for his building’s shortcomings in the Capitals’ two most recent visits to Charm City.
“I honestly never thought they were coming back,” Remesch said in a phone interview 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.”
The Baltimore Hockey Classic was first staged in Sept. 2011 when the Capitals met the Nashville Predators in preseason play before a sellout crowd of 11,082 at Baltimore Arena.
Despite the energy in the building, the playing conditions proved subpar with ice melting and puddles forming on the playing surface. It was the first professional hockey game at the Baltimore Arena since 1997 and players from both the Caps and Predators were critical of the conditions.
“It was just a matter of us not being prepared operationally and it was embarrassing,” Remesch said.
The Capitals were scheduled to return to Baltimore in 2012, but a preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was cancelled because of the NHL lockout.
In 2013, the Capitals again made the trip up the I-95 for a preseason game against the Boston Bruins. While the playing conditions were marginally improved, attendance dipped considerably with an announced crowd of 7,634 witnessing the Capitals’ eight-round shootout win against Boston.
Last year’s game also included ice issues and a pane of glass cracking and falling on Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin after a collision against the boards.
“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,” Ovechkin said after last year’s game. “First couple of periods, it was hard to be out there because you know it’s kind of dangerous and you see what happen with the glass. It’s kind of scary.”
Remesch dismissed the plexiglas incident as something that could have happened in any hockey game in any arena, but acknowledged that the ice conditions must be better if the Baltimore Arena hosts a future Caps game.
“It was sort of perfect storm with the temperature and the humidity,” Remesch said, “but we’re better off now than we were and we would definitely want them back. I know that now they’ve got some new people coming in, some new management [personnel], so it’s also a matter of it making sense for them. But we’d like to have them back.”