Washington Capitals owner Abe Pollin is expected to outline conditions today that would make it easier for him to operate or sell his hockey team, sources told The Washington Post yesterday.
At an 11 a.m. press conference at Capital Centre, Pollin will discuss the status of his team, which has a reported price tag of $7.5 million. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Last month Pollin announced he was seeking investors for the franchise, which since its inception in 1974 reportedly has lost an estimated $20 million. Since June, Pollin has remained silent on the Capitals, despite persistent rumors that they will go under or be sold out of town.
Peter O'Malley, the team's legal counsel, said during June's National Hockey League board of governors meeting that the Capitals' economic situation might force Pollin into a sale that would move the team.
Although a number of potential buyers have been reported, no formal offer has been acknowledged. Last season the Capitals reportedly lost approximately $3 million, in spite of a reported average attendance figure of more than 11,000, and missed the NHL playoffs for the eighth year.
Art Kaminsky, a New York agent-attorney, represents a group of New York businessmen interested in acquiring the Capitals and keeping them in Washington.
Kaminsky would not say whether his group has progressed toward a deal. "Nothing's changed since last time I talked about it," he said yesterday. "Nothing's changed since last week."
Harry Ornest, a Los Angeles businessman, also has been interested in the team. Ornest said he has talked with Pollin, but declined to discuss details.
Because of the team's clouded financial picture, season ticket holders have not received renewal notices, and no prices have been set for next season. Persons who call Capital Centre are told they will be notified once ticket prices have been established.
Concerned about persistent reports that the team might leave town, several groups of fans have begun soliciting promises to buy tickets, in hopes of selling out the arena next season. Pollin has expressed appreciation for their efforts, but has given no indication that such support would be enough to keep the team afloat.
Because Pollin has not officially asked the league for help, NHL President John Ziegler has said there is "no Washington situation." However, league sources say privately that the Capitals' problem is cause for concern.
The NHL schedule, due out around Aug. 1, has been drawn up based on the Capitals remaining in Washington. "If something changes, we'll have to start over," said Brian O'Neill, executive vice president. "Sooner or later, you have to tell people where they'll play."