Hockey interest on the rise in Baltimore

Hockey interest on the rise in Baltimore
September 18, 2011, 2:25 pm
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Sunday, September 18, 2011 10:21 a.m.By Matt ZenitzCSNbaltimore.com
Whether its been at youth clinics held in the area, or during various player appearances, Washington Capitals Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Joe Dupriest says he has noticed a tremendous craving for hockey in the Baltimore area, especially in recent years.

Baltimore hasnt had a professional hockey team since the Bandits of the American Hockey League (AHL) left town in 1997. Prior to the Bandits, Baltimore was home to the Clippers (1962-76) and the Skipjacks (1982-93), both also of the AHL.

Dupriest said that, since he was hired in 2007, Weve had a lot of fans come up to us during those events and asking if wed ever consider bringing a game here to Baltimore, also noting that a lot of different fans would mention how great it was to go to those old Clippers and Skipjacks games.

So, with that being the case, Dupriest and the Capitals are very much looking forward to Tuesdays Baltimore Hockey Classic at the 1st Mariner Arena which will feature an exhibition game between the Capitals and the Nashville Predators - as they bring professional hockey to Baltimore for the first time in 14 years.

Were very excited to be able to bring this to the Baltimore area, Dupriest said.

He noted the game will also serve as a stepping stone for the Capitals as they look to continue to expand an already growing fan-base in Baltimore.

According to a Baltimore Sun story published in April, television ratings for Capitals games in the Baltimore area have increased by 125 percent during the last two years. It also said that the team estimates that 10-percent of its full-plan season-ticket holders are from the Baltimore area.

Knowing that, Dupriest said the Capitals had had discussions for much of the last few years about bringing an exhibition game to Baltimore, but that talks intensified during the middle part of last season after the team received a phone call from the office of Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. Jack Young, which thought it was the right time to do this and capitalize on the teams success.

The Capitals have made the playoffs each of the last four seasons.

We want people in Baltimore to view the Caps as their team, since theres not another NHL team in Baltimore, Dupriest said. So what better way to do that then to actually take our team to then?

Baltimore-based Capitals fan Brandon Wise, who will be attending the game, likes the move by the Capitals, and is looking forward to the opportunity to take in a game at 1st Mariner area.

Wise, who has lived in Canton since 2004, is a Capitals season-ticket holder, and makes it out to 30-35 games per year, but says, Im ecstatic to have a game here, to have it be only 10 minutes away and to not have to fight D.C traffic on the way there and on the way back.

Wise added, It may be a meaningless preseason game, but Im very excited to go to this.

Chris Majerowicz, an area fitness manager for Ballys Total Fitness, shared in Wises excitement. Like Wise, Majerowicz, a Towson University graduate, is a Capitals season-ticket holder.

Being able to bring the premier hockey franchise in the NHL to Baltimore is great, Majerowicz said. Hockey is rapidly gaining popularity and its great to be able to bring the energy and excitement of a Caps game to such a great sports town like Baltimore.

Andy Snakovsky, a producer at CBS Radio in Baltimore, agreed.

Snakovsky, who bought tickets shortly after the game was announced, said, I dont get to go to as many Caps as I would like, so having a game here in Baltimore is great.

He added, I also think its great for the Caps, too, because it continues to stretch their fan base.

Dupriest said the team is hopeful of making this an annual event, although he noted that a lot of that will depend on fan reaction from this game.

Thats something wed definitely like to explore, though, Dupriest said.