If there was ever a time, the time is now.
There's no quantifiable way to define how much of the Baltimore market was invested in the Washington Capitals' run to the Stanley Cup title. I'm aware that the TV ratings suggested Baltimore was one of the markets most interested in the Caps. I'm also aware that some of the measured area that's considered the "Baltimore" TV market includes parts of Howard and Anne Arundel Counties that may well be as much D.C. suburbs as they are Baltimore.
But even though I'm not personally a Capitals fan, I'm certainly willing to recognize that there was genuine interest in the Capitals from folks who are so Baltimorean they think there's an "r" in the word "wash." If you didn't know, the hockey team I root for is the Arizona Coyotes. We didn't have a team in Baltimore, where I lived for the first 23 years of my life, so I fell in love with hockey while working with the Coyotes during the two years I lived in Arizona.
As this year's NHL playoffs began, the interest level seemed to be slight. But as the team rolled toward their first championship, that interest grew -- even here. It didn't hurt that it came at a time when we feel about as good about the Orioles as we do the The Restaurant Formerly Known As The International House Of Pancakes' marketing department.
I'm not interested in a "should Baltimore fans root for the Capitals?" conversation. Clearly a number of actual Baltimoreans do. That's absolutely fine and obviously this is a very exciting time for those fans.
As I watched video of the Capitals' week-long Stanley Cup celebration, my biggest feeling was jealousy. Despite not being a Capitals fan, I'm a very invested hockey fan. I genuinely love watching the Coyotes even though they're lousy. When they made a run to the Western Conference Final a few years back, the push was as thrilling for me to follow as I could have possibly imagined. I love hockey, and I'm insanely jealous of our friends in D.C. for getting to celebrate a Stanley Cup title.
But I'm more insanely jealous of what's been built there since the arrival of superstar forward Alex Ovechkin 13 years ago. The formerly moribund franchise has risen to a level of prominence in that city that can only be rivaled by the Redskins. Their games have been the city's coolest events. The team's relevance within the league and significance within the market have been an incredible combination that have made them a model professional sports franchise even with the many playoff failures it experienced before this year. I'm jealous of all of that.
Yet I'm mostly jealous of one thing above all others. I'm mostly jealous of the mere existence of their team. God, I wish the city that I care about, the city I love, my hometown, had a hockey team.
That particular jealousy was the emotion I felt most while watching the Capitals' run to a title this year. I wish that there was a team that all of Baltimore could embrace and celebrate. I wish that we could galvanize the way the folks around D.C. do. I wish so badly that Baltimore was an NHL town.
And if the big-time TV ratings for the Capitals in Baltimore do anything, I hope they open someone's eyes to the possibility. I hope that someone with big pockets notices that and thinks to themselves, "Wow, maybe Baltimore could be a big-time hockey town."
Obviously, it's not happening without an arena. Obviously, the Capitals wouldn't take kindly to having a notable portion of their market cut off. And with the league having expanded to Las Vegas already, Seattle seems to be a near shoo-in to get a future 32nd franchise. It seems unlikely the NHL would be in a rush to expand past 32 teams, which would tie them with the NFL for the most among the major pro sports leagues.
Acquiring a team via relocation is possible. As much as the thought of the Coyotes leaving Phoenix has pained me personally during the years, I would lovingly pack every single piece of their equipment and haul it to Charm City myself to steal them away. This isn't hyperbole. I would be so happy to steal my own favorite hockey team from its own city that I would actually walk across the country to join the movers. (Please do not inform @OldTakesExposed on Twitter of my willingness to do this -- just in case.)
It's all a pipe dream. It would require a dreamer with insanely deep pockets and the reality is that it just isn't happening. But if there was ever a time for that dreamer to dream, now's the time. Hockey momentum exists in this city. If the league wants to see a certain number of guaranteed season-ticket sales before the franchise could even exist, this would be a good time to start a ticket sales drive for a franchise that doesn't exist. Baltimore is into hockey right now. It's a plausible sell.
I'm a dreamer, but my pockets aren't even deep enough to get me into the Foo Fighters show at Merriweather Post Pavilion from the secondary ticket market. (And no, I
totally didn't just include this line in hopes a reader might happen to have an extra and be willing to sell it to me at face value. Not a chance of that at all.) If your pockets are deeper than mine and you share in this pipe dream, maybe now is the time to speak up.
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox