Abe Pollin wrapped up the Washington Bullet's victory party yesterday by serving a smorgasbord to Capitals fans. Pollin's hockey department signed two members of the Swedish national team to long-term contracts and introduced them at a Capital Centre news conference.
The newest Capitals are Rolf Edberg, a 5-foot-10, 174-pound center, and Leif Svensson, a 6-3, 190-pound defenseman. Both players were scouted by General Manager Max McNab during the World Championships in Prague where Sweden placed fourth.
Edberg, with 12 points in 10 games, was the leading scorer for Sweden in the World tourney, tying for fourth in the overall point totals. Svensson was the top scorer for the Swedish team that toured World Hockey Association cities last winter.
Edberg, 27 and Svensson, 20, have considerable internationsl experience and figure to provide immediate help to a team that, while committed to building throug the draft, was 17th in an 18-team league last season.
Edberg was once so highly rated that he centered superstars Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson on an international tour, with Nilsson shifting to left wing to make room.
The dual signings followed the Capitals' hiring of Arne Stromberg, longtime Swedish national team coach, as teir European representative. Pollin, after succeeding Peter O'Malley as team president in April, had vowed to buiold a winner through every means available, including European talent.
The Capitals, of course, will be adding even more faces to the team picture after the annual draft of amateur players, which will take place Wednesday as the highlight of the league meeting commencing tomorrow in Montreal.
Edberg and Svesson were represented by agent Bjorn Wagnsson, who had a busy week. First he attended the introduction of instant millionaires Hedberg and Nilsson to New York Ranger fans. Then he traveled to Vancouver and secured long-term contracts for defensemen Lars Lindgren and Lars Zetterstroet.
Swedes have been entering North American hockey in increasingly larger numbers since Borje Salming joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1973 and proved he was all-star material.
For signing the 17th and 18th Swedes to play hockey professionally in North America, the Capitals are committed to pay the Swedish Federation a total of $80,000, in addition to the players' salaries.
Asked why he chose to leave home, Svensson said, "The National Hockey League is a very big thing in Sweden. Everybody wants to see how you could do there. You learn to be a better player by playing with better players."
Pollin missed the conference because of a bad back and McNab quipped, "I can't help but think he aggravated it by lifting that world championship trophy."