AHL Hockey Should Come to Baltimore
That picture on the left, a heated rivalry between the Rochester Americans(Amerks) and the Toronto Marlies is what a future AHL game could be like, with a team placed in Baltimore. It should be said however, that there are no current plans to relocate an AHL team to Baltimore.
With that being said, the City of Baltimore should look into acquiring a hockey team for the area. The team could replace the Hershey Bears as the Washington Capitals AHL affiliate, but keeping the Bears in Hershey, and maintain their status as the oldest AHL franchise. For the Capitals, it would mean that their top prospects are within an hour drive, and that Capitals fans are able to make the drive to Baltimore to watch their prospects, as compared to the two hour drive that it is from the Verizon Center to Baltimore. In addition, the AHL schedules the majority of their games on weekends and holidays, providing those who work or are in school the ability to go to the games without worry.
As a Buffalo Sabres fan, the fact that our AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans(Amerks) were just over an hour’s drive away made it very easy to attend their games when I still lived in Buffalo. This is, of course, in additional to the local Baltimoreans attending their games.
The team would be able to play their games at the Baltimore Arena, joining the Baltimore Blast as full time winter tenants of the Baltimore Arena, and giving the Baltimore Arena 38 additional dates of revenue, and the ten Blast home games would be easy to schedule around, even giving the Blast priority in home dates.
In addition, the AHL scheduled the majority of their games on weekends and holidays, providing those who work the ability to go to the games without worrying about having to work or go to school the next day.
While there is no ideal team, to my knowledge for relocation, the league has teams relocate fairly often, so the chance could come soon for a team to relocate to the Charm City. On a logistical side, this would eliminate the need for realignment, because the Penguins already are in the East Division of the Eastern Conference, with teams in Lehigh Valley, Hershey, Binghamton and Norfolk, all within easy to moderate driving distance of Baltimore, making bus trips easier and driving down the cost of fuel. The rest of the Eastern Conference contains teams in New York State and New England, with the only exception being the St. Johns IceCaps in Newfoundland.
However, the AHL uses an unbalanced scheduling format, where a team does not, per say, play all of their teams in their conference, and could play a team outside their conference multiple times. For example, the Amerks, a Western Conference team, play the Syracuse Crunch, an Eastern Conference team, eight times in the 2014-2015 AHL season, despite not being in the same conference. This would help the potential team with Charlotte Checkers being a close Western Conference team, but is almost impossible to logistically make an Eastern Conference team with the concentration of the AHL.
In addition, with good AHL attendance and the NHL looking to expand, proven AHL attendance and success could put the city of Baltimore on the map for potential expansion and providing the push to build a new arena in Baltimore, which has been discussed to replace the Baltimore Arena, providing more jobs in the city for the construction, benefiting the economy and providing more money to be put into the franchise with workers spending their wages.
The team could also be shown on MASN, giving viewers a choice of what to watch on MASN on the professional level, and for those who do not like basketball are given the ability to watch hockey. MAS spreads into D.C. and parts of Pennsylvania, providing those in Washington the chance to watch their prospects on the road, and give them a taste of Baltimore hockey and a reason to come over and watch the games in person.
Overall, the AHL would be a good fit for the city of Baltimore to regain professional hockey , and with the majority of ticket prices being affordable for the family, providing a family friendly activity for when the Birds are not playing.