Abe Pollin is chairman of the board of Capital Centre and president of the world champion Washington Bullets basketball team and the Washington Capitals hockey team. In question-and-answer sessions with Washington Post staff writers Robert Fachet and Paul Attner last week, Pollin gave his views of his teams.
Q. You were obviously carried away by the Bullets' recent triumph. Are you still feeling a special glow?
A. Yes, I'm on a high. I still haven't slept. I'm not a negative guy, but last year I told my wife I was afraid I might be a Tom Yawkey type, in a sport all my life and never win. I really began to think it would never happen.
Q. Does it mean more this year than if the Bullets had won as favorites in 1975?
A. Yes, I think so. I don't think we would have turned on the town as much then. Maybe it's the fact that we were underdogs, or maybe that the team was here longer, but I think it was much more meaningful than it would have been then.
Q. Do you think the people who are cheering the world title now will be ticket-buying customers next season?
A. We've arrived in the hearts of the fans. They feel we are part of them, an important part of them. I don't expect any dropoff in enthusiasm. We've done something for the city and the people and I think that is appreciated.
Q. From a business standpoint, your attendance was down from last year and you didn't have a sellout crowd during the regular season. Do you expect better attendance?
A. No question about it. We are going to do a number of things to make sure. The ticket prices aren't going to be raised. We expect to sell more tickets and more season tickets, but we aren't in this to make a fortune, just turn a fair profit.
We're going to continue our community involvement. We've been successful, I think, with our clinics and other activities and now that we have won a championship, we want to make sure the people realize we still care.
A lot of retailers and manufacturers want to be a part of that title. We are going to expand our merchandising program and have a lot more involvement with those type of promotional activities.
The NBA films covered us extensively in the playoffs. We are going to put together a superhighlight film which also will help in promoting the team.
Q. What about the reaction to the championship. From your standpoint, how has it been?
A. We've been flodded with telegrams, letters, phone calls, you name it. It's been overwhelming. A lot of people are telling us, "Hey we were with you a long time ago, before you won it. Don't forget about us." And we aren't. We know we've had a lot of loyal supporters and we aren't going to overlook what they've done for us.
Q. Why did the Bullets not draw better in the past?
A.This is a town where most everybody comes from somewhere else. I think it takes longer for a team to become part of the community. The championship should be the thing that pills it all together.
Q. You have offered potential Capital season ticket holders a 20 percent rebate if they are disappointed with the play of the Caps. What has been the response?
A. I haven't been around long enough to find out. Between all those trips to Seattle, and the NBA meetings in San Diego and the NHL draft in Montreal, I've still got jet lag. The people I've talked to think it's a fair approach.I think we'll see results from it.
Q. Have you ever considered selling the Capitals?
A. No. We had some people who indirectly approached us, but there was never any thought of selling the team.
Q. Before the Cleveland Barons merged with Minnesota, did they approach you about a possible merger?
A. Peter O'Malley met with Gordon Gund (an owner of the Barons) in Atlanta, at a meeting I did not attend, and discussed that possibility, I met Gund in Washington and we talked about it. I told him I'd let him know, but I felt negatively about it and I was just being courteous. After a couple of days, I told him no. I preferred to go it along. I had no interest in the proposition.
Q. How do you see the future of hockey, overall, and in Washington?
A. I think hockey has seen its bottom and is coming back up. New people are involved in running the league. John Ziegler is a capable president, Gil Stein is a very bright and capable counsel. Positive things are happening at the executive level. The next thing is finding some kind of a solution to the WHA-NHL problem. That will solve a lot of problems and I think hockey will take off and zoom. In Washington, once we live up to our commitment to improve the team, and we have a competitive, exciting team, not necessarily a Stanley Cup champion, I think it will tough to get a seat.
Q.If you were in a position to do so unilaterally, what changes would you make in the NHL?
A. One rule that is a stumbling block is the rule requiring unanimous consent. I think a unanimity rule is bad for any group or organization, because it permits one person to block a major forward step. The 75 percent rule in effect in the NBA is sufficient. If I could do so, that is one thing I would certainly change.
Q. Do you have a solution for hockey's television difficulties?
A. No. That is a problem I can't answer.
Q.Are you satisfied with the financial situation and progress at Capital Centre?
A. Yes, it has been a really shining example of a success story. Not just financially, but in the need it has filled for the community. I've received so many letters since we (the Bullets) won, offering congratulations of course, but also saying, "Thank you for Capital Centre."
Q. Everybody isn't happy. You seem to be criticized frequently for not paying property taxes. Does this upset you?
A. Yes, it does bother me. It gives the impression to people out there that we're not being responsible people as taxpayers. Most privately owned arenas in the country don't pay taxes - the Spectrum in Philadelphia, the Summit in Houston, Cleveland's Coliseum. But we have put $325,000 a year in an escrow account, and as soon as the lawyers decide who we pay it to, we'll pay it. It's up to the courts now, and we're just waiting for a decision.
Q. Have you been negotiating to bring the subway out Central Avenue to Capital Centre?
A. No. I have not done so.
Q. You hurt your back lifting the NBA championship trophy. Was it worth it?
A. It sure was. I wouldn't mind hurting my back doing that every year.