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Abe Pollin: The man who brought hockey to D.C.


1998: Abe Pollin leads the crowd and Capitals Andrei Nikolishin, Sergei Gonchar and Dmitri Mironov in Christmas carols during his annual holiday party. (Frank Johnston/The Washington Post)

Abe Pollin, the man who not only brought professional basketball and hockey to Washington but transformed the city through his businesses and philanthropy, died yesterday at the age of 85.

Newer or younger Capitals fans may not have known the full scope of Pollin's contributions to the city and its NHL franchise. Here are some hockey-related excerpts from today's Post (complete coverage of Pollin's life and legacy can be found here):

On selling the team to Ted Leonsis:

In 1999, Mr. Pollin reluctantly sold the Capitals to Leonsis, later saying that he nearly called off the deal several times because "I gave birth to this franchise. I nurtured this franchise" and did not want to sell. But Mr. Pollin sold the Caps, along with a 44 percent interest in his closely held sports company, Washington Sports and Entertainment Limited Partnership, which controls the Wizards and the arena. Leonsis had the right to buy the company if Mr. Pollin ever sold, but the owner repeatedly said that would never happen while Mr. Pollin was still alive.

On his support of the Caps (from George Solomon's chat):

Sacramento, Calif.: Abe Pollin was one of the best friends our city will ever know. I had the pleasure of working with him when I co-chaired the Save the Caps committee in the early '80s. Despite being attacked by sportswriters and politicians alike, Abe was steadfast in his belief that DC could and should support its NHL team if it ever wanted to get major league baseball back. Turns out he was absolutely right.

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

On building Verizon Center:

...To understand what Pollin meant to this town and to this region, you have to walk inside Verizon Center and then take a walk around the neighborhood that surrounds the building.
It isn't just that Pollin spent close to $220 million of his own money to build the arena back in 1997. He did far more than that. He brought NBA basketball to the Washington area in 1973 and then downtown 24 years later. He did the same thing for NHL hockey, acquiring the Capitals as an expansion team in 1974. The Capitals broke all records for futility in their first season (a record of 8-67-5) before becoming a perennial playoff team in the 1980s.
In the spring of 1998, the Caps almost made Pollin's dream come true when they reached the Stanley Cup finals, before losing to the Detroit Red Wings. Pollin will not get to lift the historic trophy if and when the Capitals finally win their first Stanley Cup. But it was Pollin who created the Caps and suffered with them through many bad seasons.

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The next chapter: Leonsis has 'exclusive right' to buy Wizards

Abe Pollin's death Tuesday not only marked the end of an era in Washington, it also signaled a potential seismic shift in the town's professional sports ownership landscape.
Former AOL executive Ted Leonsis, who purchased the Washington Capitals from Pollin in 1999 and in recent seasons has transformed the NHL franchise into one of hockey's hottest tickets, has the first right of refusal to purchase the Washington Wizards, Verizon Center and the Baltimore-Washington Ticketmaster franchise from Pollin.
If the deal is completed, it could put Leonsis atop an extensive sports empire.

Click here to read the full story and here for Leonsis's statement on Pollin in its entirety.

Reactions/anecdotes from the hockey community and beyond

*Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner: "Abe Pollin always wanted the best for his teams, for the fans and for Washington..."

*Milt Schmidt, first Caps GM and coach: "In 18 months of working for him, he never said a cross word."

*Washingtoncaps.com: Capitals fans in particular will remember Pollin as the man who brought to life both the franchise and its home rink. Without Pollin's vision, there would not be an NHL team in Washington.

*D.C. Examiner: "Look at how well the Capitals are doing now," NHL Commissioner (and former NBA chief legal council) Gary Bettman said. "Sold out every game when you compare them to five, six years ago. Listen, one of the great things that Abe did was sell the Capitals to Ted Leonsis. That was a visionary move. But sports teams in all cities go through cycles. I'm not on top of the Redskins - but it comes around. But that's a remarkable testament to Abe because he always stuck with it. The Bullets/Wizards had great years, championship years and they had terrible years. The Caps struggled at points. But he stuck with them because it was important to him and it was important he knew to Washington that these teams endured."

*New York Times: "About 50 years from now, when they ride by here, people will ask, 'Who built that building?' " he said of the Verizon Center in 2001. " 'Some guy named Smith,' they'll say. Because no one remembers. For feeding hungry children, yes, I'd like to be remembered. For taking care of the homeless, I'd like to be remembered."


1997: Abe Pollin holds a press conference to introduce new coach Ron Wilson and GM George McPhee. (Larry Morris/The Washington Post)

Morning roundup: Green, Caps looking to 'regroup'

Morning roundup


After a frustrating road trip across the border, the Caps will look to move on tonight against the Buffalo Sabres back home at Verizon Center.

"We really have to regroup here and focus on the situation at hand," defenseman Mike Green said after practice yesterday. "After this last weekend and what we've gone through, we're gonna play well [Wednesday]."

Expect to see yet another shuffled -- but this time, more favorable -- lineup, as John Carlson and Andrew Gordon have been sent back down to Hershey and Milan Jurcina looks to return from an injury. Shaone Morrisonn is a "foggy" maybe, and the goalie situation is still unclear. They like to keep it interesting, those Caps.

Tonight's game info:

 

Buffalo Sabres (12-6-2)
Washington Capitals (13-5-6)
Verizon Center, 7 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 820 AM, 1500 AM
Preview from Caps' site

*Solid scorer Brooks Laich makes the net his own bank, bakery. (NHL.com)

*Leveling the playing field: What if the Caps all got the same ice time? See, math is fun! (Japers' Rink)

*ESPN's Barry Melrose on Alex Ovechkin's return from injury. (via Alex Ovetjkin)

*SAT vocab lesson from Ted Leonsis. Today's word: "dyspeptic." (Ted's Take)

*Sidney Crosby is No. 4 on a completely subjective list of the best NHL players, and Alex Ovechkin is below that. Victory for Caps fans! (Puck Daddy)

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  November 25, 2009; 5:49 AM ET
 
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Next: Alzner recalled, others still hurting (updated)

Comments

Abe,thanks for all you and your family have done for this area! God Speed and God Bless!!!! LETS GO CAPS!!!! c u all 2nite..

Posted by: bigBinMd | November 25, 2009 6:52 AM | Report abuse

Well, I get off early today, tomorrow is a holiday, and the Caps are in town tonight. I guess you can say today is perfect. My son (19) will have his Mites on the Ice today at Verizon between the 1st and 2nd. It should be a a blast.
We're also headed to Philly on 5 Dec where he will have his Mites on Ice up there. At least I will be surrounded by Caps fans which should increase my chances of getting out of Wachovia Center alive.

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 25, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Things in the hockey world. During the Caps vs Senators game the puck was shot into the Senators bench (by a Senator) and it was reported it struck their backup goaltender for the day (their actual #1) Pascal Leclaire and he had to leave the bench. Well, it did in fact hit him, and broke his jaw, he's out for 4 weeks, talk about bad luck.

Another topic is friggin' Briere. He didn't get a penalty in his game against the Avalanche because the officials somehow missed it, but he delivered a very cheap shot. It was described as a blind side, leaving the skates, forearm to the neck, after Hannan scored a goal to make it 4-2. Hannan left and did not return. My question is, why only 2 games? Sounds a lot more cheap that Laraque's situation and he got 5 games. I know Laraque has a rep, but Briere isn't an angel either. He's been in trouble for spearing.

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 25, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Thank You and RIP Abe!

Posted by: malujoker | November 25, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Rest well, Abe.

Posted by: irockthered | November 25, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Really enjoyed all the articles on Abe Pollin, which gave renewed appreciation for the guy.

A purchase by Ted will be a good thing for Caps fans, opening up the club seats and and providing new avenues for profit and efficiencies. Guess I can't expect my ticket prices to go down, but maybe they can hold steady for a while. Ted will also become more of a focus for gripes in areas where he did not have effective control before. In any case, Pollin and Leonsis have been very good for us.

Any links to Briere's suspension-earning hit?

Posted by: Sonyask | November 25, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, fanohock1, for the information on Briere. Is a hit like that ever possibly an "accident"? Pardon me if that's a stupid question. It seems as if someone's skates leave the ice, that's pretty deliberate, but I'm just wondering if it's ever unintentional.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | November 25, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

fanohock: The Laraque hit on Kronwall was a vicious knee-on-knee.

As for Briere, for him to deliver a forearm to the neck, it must mean he jumped down off a stepladder.

Good luck at Wachovia. May I suggest and you Caps fans who go stay together, even when in the restroom. There are bad places in the United States and then there's Filthydelphia. If Camden, NJ is the armpit of the nation, Filthy is well, I guess you can tell.

Posted by: tominfl1 | November 25, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Abe Pollin was a great man who did many memorable things, but I'll never forgive him for letting the Caps play second fiddle to his beloved Bullets all those years. Year after year they made the playoffs in the 80s/90s and year after year we lost our big money players.

I hope Leonsis passes on the Wizards, he is a great owner, and I honestly dont want to share him with the NBA. As odd as that sounds...

Posted by: jesstyr | November 25, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Having lived through the birth of the Caps and NHL hockey in DC all I can say is THANKS ABE from the bottom of our hearts. Hopefully those here who were not aware of the trials and effort of getting the team will now understand what Mr. Pollin means to DC sports. His charitable work was even more meaningful to the community and will be missed greatly.

A street/arena, something needs to be named after him.

Posted by: bundy44 | November 25, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Link to story of Brier's suspension.

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=299730

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 25, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I was actually impressed. It took two pages of commentary on the article on Laraque's knee-on-knee hit for someone to bring up the Ovechkin hit last year in the playoffs. :-p

No comparison.

Posted by: irockthered | November 25, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

My son has played Mites there as well and I have played a few full games there myself. It is nothing short of AWESOME!

Posted by: Iceman10 | November 25, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Abe Pollin street already runs next to Verizon.

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 25, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

To be more clear. "F" street between 6th and 7th is know as Abe Pollin Way. Also forgot the second "e" on Briere's name in the post in which I provided the link to his story...sorry.

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 25, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Where are all the fans. Am I the only one excited that the Caps play tonight?

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 25, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

unless I missed where someone else posted this...Alzner just got recalled per the team's website

Posted by: skinzfan4 | November 25, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

skinzfan4: I noticed a twitter reference in here yesterday, then the Abe Pollin coverage rightfully took over. It will be nice to see how Alzner performs. Does that also mean that Semin and/or Knuble have been placed on LTIR thus creating Cap space to bring Alzner up?

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 25, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

and yes, I'm excited the caps play tonight! apparently the Sabres netminder Ryan Miller is the cousin of former caps kelly and kip. how nice would it be to have Ryan complete the cycle of Miller's here in DC

Posted by: skinzfan4 | November 25, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Not that I don't love Varly...but seriously if Ryan Miller was our backstop we'd be instant favorites.

Anyway, I believe fanohock that you hit the nail on the head regarding Semin or Knuble on IR because something has to come off the books for Alzner's (1.5mil?) salary to fit.

OR MAYBE NYLS HAS....(pick one)

Posted by: skinzfan4 | November 25, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

The NHL's official page only lists yesterday's assignment of Carlson and A. Gordon to Hershey; nothing about Alzner.

Posted by: irockthered | November 25, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Abe Pollin:

In 2007 WETA produced a TV special called "Homefront: WWII in Washington". The program explored life in the Washington area during the war years. One of the people that were interviewed was Abe Pollin. He talked about how he got started in business during the war. Because of the war there was a tremendous housing shortage in DC. Abe's father was to build 60 houses, but he wanted to move to Florida so he told Abe to do it. Abe didn't really know anything about it, but accepted the challenge. He talked about how he did it. IMHO it is an amazing story and gives insight into Pollin's resourcefulness and the man himself (classy and humble). IMHO (again) it is definitely worth the watch. I think you might be able to get clips and stuff from the WETA website.

Posted by: BetterOffWithFedorov | November 25, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

The Caps had had two Hunters and two Millers. Have any other brothers played for the Caps? The Caps also had Bryan Murray as coach and his brother Terry as player, assistant coach and head coach.

Posted by: MReilly9 | November 25, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

irockthered: The Caps website announced that Alzner has been recalled and is eligible to make his season debut tonight.

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 25, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: skinzfan4 | November 25, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Here's the Caps' press release:

Capitals Recall Karl Alzner

Posted by: irockthered | November 25, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

As a totally unrelated side note: Kashi GoLean's "Truly Vanilla" hot breakfast cereal is good, but it is very, very sticky. Very sticky. I wonder if they could spread it on hockey sticks so the puck would stay put... actually... bad idea; I can see it now: Ovechkin winds up for a slapshot, and the puck stays on the end of his stick. And there he stands, shaking the stick, and looking at it like, "come ON!" And it flips off and bounces into the net for the game-winning goal, because the goalie's too busy laughing to stop it.

Posted by: irockthered | November 25, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Abe, for bringing the Caps to D.C.!

As a season ticket holder the first two years, I recall what an effort Pollin had to grow a good team. The NHL was tight with the new teams, giving them stingy draft choices that brought over the hill and untested players to Washington.

But, I was able to see some of the greats: Lefleur, Cornyeur, the French Connection line, and an aged Orr. I also recall the likes of Denis Potvin smashing our rookie forwards into the boards while the ref looked back up the ice.

Posted by: Bartolo1 | November 25, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

to those think that ted wont take over the wiz. remember this, the wiz made money last year and won 19 games. ted needs to take over the vc and the wiz. this will BENEFIT the caps. the caps have an absolutely horrible lease at the vc. no concessions, limited advertising and NO control over the suites and club seats. that means about 20-25% of the revenue from ticket sales to these sold out game goes to wash sports and entertainment, not ted. when ted takes over everything, obviously the caps will benefit from a more equitable lease arrangement.

as a caps season ticket holder, this should benefit you. i imagine a lot more cross promotion between wiz and caps and access to vc events. this is the way it was when abe owned the wiz and caps.

RIP Abe. a great man...

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | November 25, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

The Montreal Canadians beat the BJ last night while missing 8 players who were in the opening game line-up. This include 2 of their 3 three forwards (Gomez, Gionta), their top two Ds (Markov and Spacek) and the immovable Hal Gill and Latendresse (who was just traded). That is 44% of their entire salary mass out of commission. In the line-up were the illustrious Tom Pyatt, Ryan White, Jay Leech, Kyle Chipchura, Marc-Andre Bergeron (whom no team even invited for training camp), and JT Wyman.
They are 2 wins and one OT loss (Detroit) in the last three games with all their injuries (Gomez was hurt in the middle of the games against the Caps).
My point is, I don't want to hear injury excuses from BB or anyone else anymore. We need 60 minutes of passion, hot goaltending (like Montreal has at the moment) and some type of defensive system. BB will not transform the game, a good defense beats a good offense everytime it matters.
I want a big win tonight, and I want Montreal to go to Pittsburgh and come out with a win.

Posted by: atybat | November 25, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

The only reason Ted might be hesitant to make the Caps "make" more money is that, due to revenue sharing, the players get 55% of whatever the clubs take in.

I don't think the players get a percentage of what the Verizon Center makes; therefore, the club seats might remain under VC.

Re: Millers. Caps had Kelly and Kevin, I'm sure, but I don't think they ever had Kip.

Posted by: tominfl1 | November 25, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I was at the Caps' first game (BTW, Schmidt was their first GM, not coach), go all the way back to the Civic Center with the Bullets, and remember when DC was a sports wasteland after the Nats where hijacked to Texas. Those under the age of 50 can't begin to imagine what we all owe Mr. Pollin for bringing big league sports to DC. Not to mention his contributions to area and its people and truly people around the world. RIP Abe, if only there were more like you still around.

Posted by: truke | November 25, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

The Caps had had two Hunters and two Millers. Have any other brothers played for the Caps? The Caps also had Bryan Murray as coach and his brother Terry as player, assistant coach and head coach.

Posted by: MReilly9 | November 25, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I seem to recall another Hatcher (Kevin's brother?) trying out for the team. I think he played some preseason games but did not make team or was traded. Does anyone recalls that?

Posted by: hock1 | November 25, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I hope Leonsis passes on the Wizards, he is a great owner, and I honestly dont want to share him with the NBA. As odd as that sounds...

Posted by: jesstyr | November 25, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse


NOT a chance, Leonsis is a basketball first guy too

Posted by: joek443 | November 25, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I seem to recall another Hatcher (Kevin's brother?) trying out for the team. I think he played some preseason games but did not make team or was traded. Does anyone recalls that?

Posted by: hock1 | November 25, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse


Mark Hatcher who was even bigger than Kevin and Derian was in Caps minor league system for a while

Posted by: joek443 | November 25, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

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