The management of the Washington Capitals, silent about next year's plans since the termination of the season on April 5, finally was heard from yesterday. The Capitals notified season ticket-holders that prices had been raised 50 cents across the board, to $11, $9 and $6.
This is the third increase since the team began play here in 1974, when prices were scaled at $8.50, $6.50 and $4. There was a boost to $9.50, $7.50 and $4.50 and 1977, after the team made a big leap forward under Tom McVie. A year ago, all tickets went up $1 after the Capitals stirred up area hockey fans with that so-close playoff bid.
Owner Abe Pollin, who was not available yesterday, never has commented on the Capitals' fiscal problems. However, it is believed they lost more than $1 million last year and have dropped more than $10 million in their seven-year history.
Considering a seventh straight failure to reach the playoffs, after the team had been 10th much of the season, the latest ticket rise comes as a surprise. However, Tom Hipp, the Capitals' marketing director, said the club still has the lowest average ticket price in the NHL.
"These are inflationary times and the costs of operating the club have gone up far more than the 50 cents a ticket," Hipp said. "Economic circumstances have forced it on us. Had we been more successful this season, maybe it would have justified a greater increase. Fifty cents is no financial boon to us. W didn't hit the lottery when we raised it 50 cents."
Only Chicago and Detroit had top tickets priced $11 a year ago, when Washington's $10.50 was the NHL's best buy. Only Chicago ($4), the New York Rangers ($4.50) and Toronto ($5) had an seats cheaper than Washington's $5.50.
The Capitals set an attendance record of 477,062 for 40 homes games last season. However, there were so many discount plans, including the continuing 10 percent cut to season ticket-holders paying in full by Sept. 14, group plans and "Super Fan Nights," that it is difficult to estimate the dollar value of the crowd figure.
Season ticket sales have remained steady at about 5,000 and, Hipp said, "I believe we're down to a hard-core group. I don't see a big bailout. But we have to be consistent winners to bring the season-ticket sale up. We provide good entertainment for the dollar but to be a demand item, we have to win, too."
Mike Gartner, Dennis Maruk and Bengt Gustafsson will be negotiating new contracts this summer and the need to compete with powerful Patrick Division foes under upcoming realignment will require further expenditures for player acquisition.
No help was obtained yesterday as NHL teams drafted veteran Czechoslovakian players permitted to play overseas by that country's federation. Four players were available; the Capitals had the No. 5 pick.
In that draft, the Winnipeg Jets made center Ivan Hlinka the first of the veteran Czech national team members selected.
The Detroit Red Wings were next and took left wing Bohuslav Ebermann. The Colorado Rockies followed by selecting defenseman Jiri Bubla and the Hartford Whalers concluded the proceedings by picking right wing Vladimir Martinec.