As you may have seen here, I’m quite excited for the NAHL to come to Maryland. For someone who played in the Maryland hockey system, this is something that was lacking when I was growing up. However, with the wave of players being born in Maryland and not having the chance to play at home, this is the perfect time to keep the players in the area and play a high level of hockey.
“We’ve worked closely with the people who run Team Maryland and we thought an opportunity like this would give local kids a path to college scholarships without having to leave the area,” mentioned Ryan Scott, VP of the Black Bear Sports Group, owners of Piney Orchard– the home of this new Maryland team. “There’s a lot of times where players are developing in Maryland for pee-wees and bantams, but then have to go to the Northeast for prep schools to get really noticed. With this, we can keep the players here and have them develop that way.”
Working with Team Maryland– who has a minority stake in Piney Orchard, as well as seeing the talent in and around the area with high schoolers and club teams, the hope for this NAHL squad is that they’ll have a local flavor that will help out with getting people interested in the team.
“It’s still a couple years away,” Scott stated about the local flavor, “But this will be a great fit for the players who play with Team Maryland. We’ll be able to retain them and have them play locally rather than having them uproot and move away from home.”
There have been past teams who have been in a developmental league, but as Scott told me– they were a pay-for-play situation, which is no different from youth hockey. With the NAHL, the league is tuition-free so the players won’t incur costs while playing. But NCAA Division I wasn’t in mind for this instance.
“If that happens (D1 hockey), it’s a byproduct,” said Scott. “It’s not really our goal to bring in the NCAA. We wanted to make sure the players who grew up in this area could stay in this area. Also, to be able to attract scouts for this players in this area is always a plus for the development of hockey in the state.”
Another note that I had mentioned before is the placement of Piney Orchard as the home base. Black Bear Sports Group has managed Piney Orchard for some time and Scott had said that it wasn’t in the best shape, but it was still the option they wanted.
“Piney needed some love,” mentioned Scott. “We spent $700,000 renovating the lighting, the boards, the front offices– everything we could think of to bring it up to a modern standard. We also have that great facility that the Capitals left behind when they had their facility here, so the players will have a top notch place to train. Also, while Piney is a little more remote, the arena is better situation for what we wanted than Iceworld in Abingdon.”
Also mentioned was the concession, which Scott said will be run by an unnamed local Italian eatery with a liquor license. Therefore, young and old can enjoy the games– maybe with some lovely Natty Boh.
As this is published, there is not an official team name, but one could be announced but the end of the week or early next week. I was reassured that the Maryland flag color scheme will be in use for it. Other front office decisions will be made in the near future as far as coaching, general manager, and the like.
Stay tuned here for all the updated happenings and more as it comes with this new Maryland team in the NAHL.