Maryland has national reputations for many things, but ice hockey is not one of them. If Dick Baker has his way, however, that will change.
Baker and his team, the Howard County Hockey Club, will become the first Maryland team ever to play in the national ice hockey championships this weekend in Woburn, Mass. Champions from eight regions will compete in divisions from midget to the 16-17 age group. The local 16-member team will compete in the 16-17 division.
"I think we have a better than average chance to win the nationals," Baker said. "We've beaten some of the best teams in the nation." To advance to the nationals, the Howard County team won divisional and regional titles in the Mid-Atlantic Region, which includes teams from 16 states.
The Howard County Hockey Club is governed by the U.S.A. Hockey Club, which holds the national championships. The club is open to interested Howard County residents, and holds a two-week tryout session each September. Chosen players are divided into A and B teams, and must pay more than $3,000 for membership, equipment and travel expenses. There are 415 members in all of the club's age groups.
Baker, 10-year coach of the team, attributes its success to its lack of big egos. "We play as a team," he says, "We don't have any superstars."
The team captain is Billy Zinkhan, and Chris Russell and Cullen Meade are co-captains. Pat Grimsley, son of former Oriole pitcher Ross Grimsley, is a member, as well as Loyola High's Mike Gately and Howard High's B.J. Beard.