Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why Baltimore Wouldn't Work

According to sources from Dennis Bernstein's Twitter account, Baltimore is going to announce a new 18,000 seat arena and could be in the running for relocation for an NHL team should the topic come up once the arena is complete. Of course, if this is true-- which I wouldn't doubt right now with the past buzz about a new arena in the Baltimore area and the fact that it's just a Tweet-- then they would join Kansas City, Quebec City, and Hamilton as front runners in the relocation race.

However, even as cool as it would be for my hometown to be in consideration for an NHL team, it's never going to work. It's not just because the Caps are 45 minutes away from the Baltimore metro area, either. It's because hockey hasn't really worked out for the Baltimore area in the past. While that's not always due to the teams on the ice, marketing for a team is a huge part of the game today. I don't think you could market hockey to Baltimore and make it work with the Caps so close and so established in the area.

Truth be told, Baltimore is a football town first, baseball town second. I don't even know if you could consider hockey in the top five-- since they could be beat out by indoor soccer, lacrosse, and basketball. Sure, you'd be pulling from the suburbs and it'd be a little easier to deal with then trying to get the DC core, but after the allure of having a team out there is gone to start-- how will the people keep the fans when you have to deal with a team like the Caps only miles away-- with arguably the best player in the world playing there for the next decade??

Which makes me wonder how much Ted Leonsis would seek in order to have a team even be considered coming to Baltimore. I'm sure there'd be some kind of money exchanging hands for anyone wanting to head into Baltimore, especially when it's 45 minutes away-- downtown to downtown on the open roads late-at-night. If there's a debacle between Toronto and Hamilton and former issues with LA and Anaheim-- there's bound to be something between DC and Baltimore.

In addition, hockey has been a hard sell (outside of the Skipjacks, of course) in the Baltimore area. The Blades in the WHA didn't last long, mostly due to ownership, of course. The Clippers name was in and out of hockey for some decades, but it took a while to really catch on. The Bandits were a horribly run team and was a disaster from the get-go. Oddly enough, the last failure in Maryland hockey was when the same ownership group as the Bandits got an ECHL team and was turned into the Chesapeake Icebreakers; which-- like the Bandits-- only lasted two years.

While it would be easy for some people to deal with a pro team in Baltimore-- the whole thing probably won't last when you have a team down the way which is more establish, has more allure to it, and would probably lay claim to the territorial rights if the new area is being considered. The sport itself is popular to play for the youngsters, but who knows how that will translate in attendance; especially since the Caps are an established brand in the area and the hockey region isn't exactly a huge hot-bed to warrant two teams in the area. It's a great thought, but if put into motion-- doubtful it'll have successful results.


Anonymous said...

DC was never a hockey town either, until Ovi showed up. Just put one superstar in the mix and Baltimore would do fine. The LAX crossover would be big too.

Anna said...

I live in Baltimore and while having a hockey team closer than an hour away would be great, I don't think it's viable. We have one of the most amazing baseball stadiums in the country and can't fill seats. Plus, Baltimore has a poor infrastructure to support a stadium that large. We have lousy public transport and, frankly, people in this city have bigger problems to worry about before they start caring about hockey.

ScottyWazz said...

@Anonymous: I think DC was a hockey town. The old days of the Capital Centre were clutch. I remember going there with my dad and watching the late 80s/early 90s team that were great in the regular season-- but awful in the post season.

@Anna: It'd definitely be better than driving to College Park or Greenbelt to get on the Metro to DC, but if they are going to put it in Canton, like has been talked about before-- the lack of solid transportation like you said would be the big holding up point. As far as Camden Yards is concerned-- the issue is more to do with Angelos ruining the team. The structure of the stadium can only take you so far.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go out and say that, outside of the territorial rights discussion, almost all of the reasons you've given for why the team wouldn't work are reasons why it would; especially with the Caps being so established. The Caps proximity would create an instant rivalry, if the hypothetical team put in a .500 season they would draw better than the Oriols, and besides the NFL and MLB, an NHL team would only have to compete with fringe leagues and street sports for interest. If/when the time comes to relocate a team like the Panthers Baltimore would probably be the best choice with a new arena and not having to change division or conference standings. Also, you never know, the Flyers may want in on the territorial rights battle as well.

Anonymous said...

Baltimore will never get another AHL team, they have fallen victim to the 3 strikes rule. Clippers being strike one, Skipjacks being strike two, and the Bandits being strike three. ECHL teams have played in 18k seat arenas right?

Stillson said...

I'm not sure how Baltimore would work out. There's a pretty good AHL hockey market about an hour north in Hershey that could help the Baltimore market. However, with the Bears affiliated with the Caps, it might be a tough sell to that group. It would be interesting to say the least. Me living in the Harrisburg area makes it tough for me to catch a Pens game now that the Caps are winning. So I'd probably get a partial season ticket package being only an hour away.

ScottyWazz said...

@Anonymous2 Electric Boogaloo: Fair enough point. I can understand the reason, but I don't believe the demand much like Toronto or New York. It'd be a matter of demographics to see how many people from the Baltimore area (including AA County and parts of HoCo) go to Caps games.

@Anonymous3: Definitely agree with the three strike rule, but stranger things have happened. Didn't the UHL use the Kemper Arena, which was 19,500 for the Outlaws games?? This idea has Sprint Center redux all over it.

@Stillson: Great point, because I love the atmosphere in the old Hersheypark Arena. Top game in town there and can draw from just about anywhere. Baltimore really doesn't stand much of a chance.

Anonymous said...

Between Baltimore and DC there are six major pro teams, and four Division I schools: There isn't enough corporate sponsorship dollars to go around (Ollies is a major sponsor of the Orioles, for pete's sake!)

However, an AHL or ECHL team paired with an NBA D-League team could attract enough support to be sustainable.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 11:19am

Flyers already consider Maryland part of their territory, at least for broadcast rights purposes. Try watching an internet broadcast of either a flyers or caps game (via Yahoo gamenight), and you get a message saying that the broadcast is not available in this area. That's due to NHL restriction on internet retransmission in the home broadcast area (so that you can pay comcast to watch it...)

Anonymous said...

There arent enough people to have interest in a NHL team once you split the Caps fan base. The only way it would work would be to have an ECHL team that is affiliated with the Caps (i.e. move the rays). Hershey has long been a huge hockey town but interest up there has grown alot because of the caps and the close proximity. With the Caps ECHL team located within the Caps fan base many people would be tempted to go see players that may one day play for the Caps and cheep hockey is better than no hockey

ScottyWazz said...

@Anonymous 5:17: Perfect situation, I must say. It seemed to work decently with the Flyers having their AHL affiliate across the street and ECHL affiliate across the river in Trenton. But now-- that's gone. Still a great idea.

Caps Nut said...

First of all, the Caps affiliated with the Skipjacks before they moved to Portland and it didn't help either franchise. Considering that most ECHL players won't make it to the NHL makes the idea of moving the South Carolina franchise (which the Caps BTW have no control over) to Baltimore is pointless.

Secondly, while putting an NHL franchise in Baltimore would harm the Caps, the damage will come not from Washington losing the Baltimore market but the Baltimore team needing access to the Washington market to survive. While any Caps fans lost in Baltimore could be replaced by aggressive and smart marketing in the Richmond and Norfolk areas of Virgina; it is the D.C. area fans that they would end up losing that would be tough to replace.

Fact of the matter is, despite all of the bluff and bluster, Baltimore is not a major league town. Both the B.O.'s and Ratbirds depend upon having a presence in D.C. in order to survive where the Natinals and Redskins don't have nor need a presence in Baltimore.

Case in point, both the B.O.'s and Ratbirds have Washington, D.C. radio affiliates where the Natinals and Redskins don't have Baltimore affiliates. Any radio affiliate the Caps have in Baltimore would be dropped once Baltimore got their own NHL team and the Baltimore franchise would seek out and find an affiliate in D.C. because would need one in order to survive.

Anonymous said...

I think hockey will work in Baltimore.

Three Strikes Rule?! Please!

Cleveland has had five hockey teams, and Philly, not including the Flyers, had as twice as much.

As a Caps fan living in "Balmer", I would like to see maybe the Lowell Devils (who's struggling in attendance while winning), or Toronto Marlies relocated here.

That way Baltimore would start rivalries with Hershey, WBS, Norfolk, Lake Erie, etc.,

ECHL that's fine, too. I just want some hockey and not travel all the way down to D.C.

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