Atlantic Coast Hockey League (1981-1982)
American Hockey League (1982-1993)
Born: September 1981 – Baltimore Clippers re-branded as the Skipjacks.
Died: March 26, 1993 – Skipjacks announce relocation to Portland, ME.
Arena: Baltimore Civic Center
- 1981-????: Baltimore Hockey Advocates
- 1987-1993: Tom Ebright and Baltimore Hockey Advocates.
The Baltimore Skipjacks were a minor league hockey club that served as a farm team to the Boston Bruins (1982-1983), Pittsburgh Penguins (1982-1987) and Washington Capitals (1988-1993). Prior to the Skipjacks, Baltimore had a long and checkered history with pro hockey. Going back to the World War II era, all of Baltimore’s various minor league clubs were named the “Clippers”.
The Skipjacks’ finest seasons came during the mid-1980’s when they served as a Penguins’ farm club and were coached by Gene Ubriaco. In 1983-84, the Skipjacks had the best regular season record in the American Hockey League (46-24-10), thanks in part to Pittsburgh’s conscious effort to tank the NHL season and win the right to select Mario Lemieux in the 1984 NHL draft. At one point, the 1983-84 Skipjacks set an AHL record by winning 16 games in a row, but they were bounced in the Calder Cup semis by the Rochester Americans.
The following season, Ubriaco’s charges went further, advancing to the 1985 Calder Cup finals. The Skipjacks’ captain that season was Steve Carlson, a minor league warhorse who played one of the Hanson Brothers in Slap Shot. The 1984-85 team also included notorious tough guys Marty McSorley and Bennett Wolf. Rookie goaltender Jon Casey, on loan from the Minnesota North Stars, was outstanding with a 30-11-4 mark and a 2.63 GAA. But in the Calder Cup finals, Baltimore ran into the Sherbooke Canadiens and a young Montreal goaltending prospect named Patrick Roy. Sherbrooke beat the Skipjacks 4 games to 2 behind Roy’s heroics in net.
During their 12-year run in Baltimore, the Skipjacks played second fiddle to the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team, the ‘Jacks winter co-tenant at the Civic Center. The Blast, whose original 1980-1992 run coincided closely with the Skipjacks’ lifespan, consistently outdrew the hockey team on a magnitude of about 3:1.
That meant that the Skipjacks consistently lost six figures a year. After the 1986-87 season the Pittsburgh Penguins, who funded most of the club’s expenses, lost patience and shifted their top farm club relationship to Muskegon of the IHL. Businessman Tom Ebright saved the team, buying the club for $250,000 and operating as an independent (without NHL affiliation) for the 1987-88 season.
Starting in 1988, the Skipjacks became the top farm club for the nearby Washington Capitals of the NHL. With the switch, the Skipjacks dropped their black & yellow palate of the Penguins era in favor of a red, white & blue color scheme. The Capitals era wasn’t particularly fruitful for Baltimore hockey fans, but the ‘Jacks did help to produce two future NHL goaltending stars for Washington in Byron Dafoe and Olaf Kolzig.
Owner Tom Ebright lost an estimated $2.5 million on the Skipjacks over six years from 1987 to 1993. In March of 1993 he threw in the towel and signed a deal to move the Skipjacks to Portland, Maine. The Skipjacks became the Portland Pirates for the 1993-94 AHL season and continue to play under that identity today.
==Baltimore Skipjacks Games on Fun While It Lasted==
Former Skipjacks owner Tom Ebright passed away in 1997.
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