Barry Trotz landed in the professional hockey’s head coaching ranks prior to the 1992-1993 season when he was named head coach of the Washington Capitals’ AHL affiliate, the Baltimore Skipjacks.
Baltimore, at the time the southernmost city in the American Hockey League, was home to one major league sports franchise – the Baltimore Orioles.
In a city without an NHL team, the Skipjacks, playing out of Baltimore Arena, provided the city’s athletic entertainment during the baseball offseason. The Ravens were four years away from relocating from Cleveland.
“I spent four years there,” Trotz said. “It’s grown a lot. I know when I first got there, the Inner Harbor was still not really developed yet. Camden Yards just came in. I know when I was leaving there four years later the Inner Harbor was really growing. It’s interesting. The old rink, there’s some good memories in there.”
Trotz was the head coach of the Skipjacks for one season. With Bryan Dafoe between the pipes, future 500-game NHLers Steve Konowalchuk, Jason Woolley, Ken Klee and long term NHLer Mark Hunter making his last hurrah, the Skipjacks managed to make the playoffs despite a 28-40-12 record. Those playoffs were short-lived, however, as the Skipjacks lost in seven games to the Binghamton Rangers in the first round. The next season in Portland, Trotz and the newly christened Pirates would win the AHL’s Calder Cup.
The team had attendance issues in Baltimore and reportedly had struggles getting assistance from the city. In addition, the Baltimore Arena, 30 years old at the time, was already considered out-of-date. At the end of the season, the Skipjacks packed up their bags and relocated to Portland, Maine. Trotz and the newly rechristened Portland Pirates won the AHL’s Calder Cup in their first season in Maine.
On Tuesday night, Trotz will coach in Baltimore for the first time since the 1993 Calder Cup Playoffs, as the Nashville Predators take on the Capitals in the inaugural Baltimore Classic.
While it has a new name, the 1st Mariner Arena is the exact same building in which Trotz began his professional head coaching career.
“It’s really not a great thing,” Trotz said. “It was old when I was there and that was twenty years ago.”
Another AHL team, the Baltimore Bandits, made a brief run through the Baltimore Arena after Trotz and the Skipjacks left town, but relocated to Cincinnati after two seasons and are now the Rockford IceHogs.
Tuesday’s matchup will be the first major ice hockey event in Baltimore in almost 15 years. 1st Mariner has not had an ice hockey tenant since the Bandits relocated in 1997.
“It’ll be old school hockey in terms of the feel of the building and all that,” Trotz said. “The building’s a little dated. Hopefully they’ve fixed it up.”