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Capitals to play Nashville in NHL exhibition at First Mariner Arena

Baltimore’s First Mariner Arena will play host to professional hockey for the first time since the spring of 1997 when the Washington Capitals play the Nashville Predators Sept. 20 in a National Hockey League preseason game.

The game, being billed as the Baltimore Hockey Classic, will mark the first time in nearly 20 years that the Capitals will play in the city.

The announcement was made Monday at the arena by First Mariner Arena General Manager Frank Remesch, Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Capitals General Manager George McPhee.

“Baltimore has been a great hockey market for many years,” McPhee said. “We would be delighted to come back and play more games.”

Young said he’s been working on getting the Capitals to play at First Mariner for more than a year. In February, former Washington Capitals players held a youth hockey clinic at Patterson Park, co-hosted by Baltimore’s Department of Recreation and Parks.

Tickets to the game are scheduled to go on sale through Ticketmaster Friday at 10 a.m. and will cost between $32 and $145.

While McPhee and Remesch said they are hopeful for selling out the 14,000-seat arena, Young said he realizes it may be tough for the Capitals to play at a smaller venue.

“We’d like to have home games here,” Young said. “But they’re used to an 18,000-seat arena, so 14,000 is kind of tough.”

Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center is home to the Capitals, as well as the NBA’s Washington Wizards.

Joe Dupriest, vice president and chief marketing officer for the team said that Baltimore’s support for the team has risen over the past few seasons  in game attendance and in TV ratings in the area.

“Since they have shown so much support and willingness to come to D.C., we thought it was time to bring the Caps to them,” Dupriest said.

Remesch said the arena will be using some of the Capitals’ staff to make the venue ready for hockey by fall, since most of the hockey-knowledgeable staff that used to work at First Mariner has since retired. But the arena has still held ice events, including “Disney On Ice” performances even long after hockey teams migrated to other cities.

“To bring hockey back to this building and to this town means a lot,” Remesch said. “Asking me what this means to the arena it’s almost like asking about bringing the Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen.”

In 2006, the arena hosted the first Rolling Stones concert in the city since the late 1960s, while Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at First Mariner three years later.

The arena’s last hockey tenant was the American Hockey League’s Baltimore Bandits, who moved to Cincinnati for the 1997-98 season after playing in Baltimore for two seasons.

Before that, the arena was home to the Baltimore Skipjacks and the Baltimore Clippers.

Nashville, which finished in second place in the NHL’s Central Division, is coached by Barry Trotz, who led the Baltimore Skipjacks to a 28-40-12 record in the 1992-93 season, the franchise’s last in Baltimore.