Friday, August 27, 2010

Things I Miss: The Skipjacks

Ever since the Washington Capitals joined forces with the Hershey Bears of the AHL in 2005, Caps fans have been lucky to have minor league hockey within driving distance of DC. The history associated with the Bears, and the success of the team after the collaboration, have won over scores of Washinton fans who routinely make road trips up to catch weekend games.But when I started playing hockey in the early 1990's, Hershey wasn't in the picture and neither was driving 2 hours to find AHL hockey. In the early 90's, there were the Skipjacks.

Once upon a time, the Baltimore Skipjacks had better attendance than the Baltimore Bullets NBA team. Being only 30 minutes north of Landover, there was always the opportunity to head up and catch a game at the Baltimore Arena. There was also the opportunity, just as the Bears do around the community, for the Skipjacks players to do PR trips.

During my first years playing hockey at the Wells Hockey clinic in College Park, MD, several Skipjacks players made the trip down to get on the ice with kids just learning the game.

The Skipjacks sent a couple young defensemen, Jim Mathieson and Ken Lovsin, down for the PR visit. The two were just kids and acted like it. They had fun with the large group of kids, playing keep-away and stickhandling with the butt-ends of their sticks. As a kid, it was an absolute blast to see these professionals goofing off and having fun playing the game.

I was a goalie at the time and I remember Lovsin throwing harmless shots at me to stop. I yelled at him to really shoot the puck, and he did. I made a glove save on a slap shot (which I was extremely proud of) that pulled my glove off my hand and deposited it top-shelf inside the net. I think Lovsin laughed for 10 minutes while I taunted him that I'd hold on next time.

I wish the DC area had an AHL team to call its own. Sure, the Caps are incredibly involved in the community, but kids are in awe of them. Sometimes having the no-name kids come out really brings out the love of the game.

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