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When Abe Pollin announced in 1972 that he planned to bring an NHL team to America's national capital, the Washington sportsman, who owned his own construction firm, was advised by a Las Vegas bookmaker that the odds were 600-1 against him. Undaunted, Pollin personally delivered his application to the NHL office in Montreal on the day of the deadline to submit it. He made his presentation at the Board of Governors meetings in May, 1972. Aware that he was an underdog among 10 competitors for two expansion franchise openings, Pollin spent five days in a Montreal hotel, lobbying hockey's power brokers on Washington's behalf. His presentation was impressive enough to get him the franchise on the condition that a suitable arena would be available by 1974-75. We offer the best Washington Capitals Tickets online.
Pollin, who already owned the NBA Baltimore Bullets, envisioned a new arena that would house both his major-league teams somewhere in the Capital District. But bickering and bureaucratic delays over who or which city would build the arena frustrated his plans. Finally, he decided to construct the rink with his own funds, on a site he personally would choose. Pollin bypassed both Washington and Baltimore for a tract of former farmland in Landover, Maryland, where he planned to build an $18-million arena to he known as the Capital Centre.
The minimum target date for completion was thought to be two years. Instead, the arena was completed in six months. It seated 17,962 seats as a hockey arena and boasted that every spectator was guaranteed a seat no further than 200 feet from center ice. Furthermore, at a time when other NHL arenas were not even considering premium seating, Pollin arranged 40 luxury sky suites, to be clustered along the upper levels.
For their first season, the Washington Capitals had former American Hockey League star Jimmy Anderson behind the bench and Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt as general manager. However, the Capitals were competing against the three-year-old World Hockey Association and the NHL expansion Kansas City Scouts for players. The result was a patchwork conspicuously lacking in talent on both the attack and defense. Washington's leading scorer, Tommy Williams (22 goals, 36 assists), was a Boston Bruins discard, and the supporting cast, with the notable exception of heroic goalie Ron Low, had even fewer credentials. The team's major hope was an African-Canadian named Mike Marson who had been the top scorer with the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey Association. Marson was only the second black to reach the NHL, the first having been Willie O'Ree, who had played briefly for the Boston Bruins beginning in 1957-58. Marson finished as the Caps' third-leading scorer with 16 goals and 28 points.
Precisely how Washingtonians would respond to hockey was underscored on opening night, October 9, 1974, when a crowd of 17,500 turned out to see the New York Rangers defeat the Caps 6-3. Sellouts were not the norm, but there were enough substantial gates to persuade Pollin he had made a good move despite the fact that the team went just 8-67-5 and set records for fewest wins (minimum 70 games), most losses (since broken), most consecutive losses (17, later tied by San Jose) and most goals-against (446).
It would have been difficult for Pollin's puckchasers to do worse in their second season, but the improvement proved to he minuscule. The Capitals launched the season with Schmidt managing and coaching,. After 36 games, his record was three wins, five ties and eight losses. Then, Pollin made a wholesale change. Central Hockey League president Max McNab was imported as general manager, and McNab in turn, hired Tom McVic to handle the team. The Caps finished the Near I I-59-10. McVie won eight, tied five and lost 31 games. Following McNab's regime, this was a significant improvement. In 1977, the team's record Ieaped to a more reasonable 24-42-I4 thanks to key accquisitions such as Guy Charrun, Bryan Watson and Gern Mehan. Unfortunately for- McVie, the upward trend didn't Continue. In 1977-78, the Capitals record dropped to 17-49-14.
"It was the low point in my career" McVie admitted. "It was my first NHL job and I gave my soul. I put the team ahead of my family and health. I took a day off once with my wife, and when I came back, Danny Re isle was in my coach's chair. They said, 'You're gone!' That taught me a lesson. Ever since then, I take my chair with me and never go on vacations."
With Bclisle coaching, in their fifth year of existence (1978-79), the Capitals registered their best record yet with 63 points (24-41-15), but still missed the playoffs. Fleet Little denies Maruk became an overnight sensation as he led the team in scoring with 90 Points. Bclisle's tenure was short-lived. The victim of a poor start (4-10-2) in 1979-80, he was yanked after 16 games in favor of a youthful Gary Green. The 26-year-old Green was the youngest coach in NHL history.
Green produced the best yet Capitals coaching record (33-30-11 ), but it was a case of too little, too late and a playoff berth eluded the franchise for the sixth consecutive year in spite of starry efforts by Maruk, Mike Gartner and Ryan Walter, that offered hope for the future.
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