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By 1982, owner Abe Pollin was willing to sell the Washington Capitals for $7,500,000.
After their woeful beginning, the Capitals did little to improve and missed the playoffs each of their first eight seasons in the league. Starting in 1979-80, 16 of 21 NHL teams qualified for the playoffs, adding to the Capitals' embarrassment.
By the summer of 1982, the Washington Capitals were in a different type of trouble. Owner Abe Pollin claimed to have lost $20,000,000 since entering the league per SaveTheCaps.com. As a result, Pollin threatened to move, merge or fold the franchise if four specific criteria were not met, according to Dave McKenna of Washington City Paper:
- Reduce Prince George's County amusement tax by 95 percent.
- Reduce Capital Centre rent by two-thirds.
- Sell out first 10 home games of 1982-83 season.
- Sell at least 7,500 season tickets.
The first three criteria were met, and the Caps fell short of the fourth criteria by only 1,900 tickets (SaveTheCaps.com).
To meet these criteria, the Capitals needed a little help from their friends. Okay, a lot of help (Dave McKenna of Washington City Paper):
- Local resident Steve Mehlman formed the "Save the Caps" campaign with other volunteers.
- Mehlman appeared on WTOP-TV with the late, great Glenn Brenner to discuss the campaign.
- Another local legend, George Michael of NBC4, emceed an on-air telethon.
- People's Drug adorned all newspaper advertising with "Save the Caps!"
- DC Special Olympics chapter used tax-deductible contributions to buy tickets.
- The Washington Post published multiple editorials in support of the campaign.
- The Post also guaranteed to buy all unsold tickets to one of first 10 home games.
- Nine other local businesses followed suit, helping to meet one of Pollin's demands.
Capitals fans then and now shudder to think what would have happened if Pollin's demands had not been met. The owner's preferred course of action was to merge his franchise with another, also born in 1974: The New Jersey Devils (Ted Starkey of SBNation DC).