Jacks' fans aren't sure about ECHL

March 20, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Lorraine Kelley was in full uniform, from the blinking "Jacks" earrings to her American Hockey League pins to the hockey charms she worn around her neck.

And it all adorned a crisp, red, white and blue Skipjacks jersey.

A Skipjacks fan if ever there was one.

Kelley was on hand last night when Skipjacks owner Tom Ebright made an on-ice pitch for renewal of season tickets for next year. Although Ebright didn't say it, his AHL team is almost certainly moving to Portland, Maine, for next season, and in its place will be an East Coast Hockey League team.

Kelley, a devout hockey fan who travels up and down the East Coast, isn't happy the AHL club is leaving.

"I'm not saying I wouldn't have some enthusiasm [for an ECHL team]," she said. "I think people in Baltimore would support an East Coast League team, but I don't think more than 2,500 to 3,000 would support it.

"With the ECHL, these players are not quite good enough to make it in the 'A' [AHL] or 'I' [International Hockey League]. You never see these players go into the NHL. They'd be mediocre players in a rough-and-tumble game. There's a little more fighting than in the AHL. A lot of people care for that, but I'm not for violence."

Kelley, from Glen Burnie, said she would retain her season tickets to watch an ECHL team here, but would make the Washington Capitals her local priority "because I want to see better hockey."

Reaction to Ebright's talk between the first and second periods was mixed. William Miller of Baltimore said he was upset that Ebright indicated a month ago he would give Baltimore another year in the AHL.

"That's the main thing that got everybody mad," said Miller, another longtime season-ticket holder. "Most everybody could care less, the way Washington puts players in here.

"I'm not going to throw myself in front of a car because we don't have hockey."

George Brewer of Dundalk is a season-ticket holder who would embrace the ECHL's more aggressive style.

"That's a brand of hockey that goes back to the days of the old Clippers," Brewer said. "Rock 'em, sock 'em hockey. We've all looked for a better brand of hockey. The finesse brand of hockey they've played the last two years is not our style."

Brewer said he attended Clippers games while in his early teens, but lost touch with the sport after that. It was only through a small business mailing invitation that he discovered the Skipjacks two years ago. Brewer's wife, Carol, runs an accounting firm, and received complimentary tickets to a doubleheader.

"I didn't know the Skipjacks existed until we got that thing in the mail," Brewer said.

Then there was Russ Pomrenke, who drove 75 miles from Quantico, Va. -- for the fourth time since January -- to see the Skipjacks.

"I'm a Skipjacks fan," he said. "I only come here, I don't like going to the Cap Centre."

Apprised of the hockey situation here, Pomrenke shrugged and said, "I don't think the hockey team has ever been supported here."

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