Reacting to reports that his Washington Capitals are once again up for sale, team owner Abe Pollin said after last night's game: "These rumors are false."
In a prepared statement that he read in the Capitals locker room, Pollin said, "I will not sell the team or move it from Washington."
The reports originated in Hamilton, Ontario, which has no National Hockey League franchise. According to Lou Corletto, Capitals public relations man, a "gentleman from Hamilton reportedly called (Prince George's County Council member) Sue Mills, saying he'd been negotiating with Pollin about buying the team."
Mills cast the only dissenting vote last August on a bill that gave the Capitals a break on the county's amusement tax. Mills, who said recently she was going to try to get the tax restored next year, was not available for comment.
Until last night, the Capitals offered no comment on the reports. Before the game, Pollin and Dick Patrick, executive vice president of the team, met with Coach Bryan Murray to assure him and his players that "there was nothing to it," according to Patrick.
Similar reports recently have suggested the team might move to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, or Seattle-Tacoma.
Patrick, who became an investor in the Capitals last summer, said yesterday, "I heard all this and became concerned that the players, or especially, the fans, would believe it. It's all a bunch of baloney. Just talking about it gives it more credibility than it deserves."
Last summer Pollin had announced he would sell, move or fold the club if four specific conditions were not met. The sale of 7,500 season tickets, sellouts of the team's first 10 home games, the reduction of rent on Capital Centre and a tax break from Prince George's County.
Although season ticket sales stalled at less than 6,000, local businesses bought out the home games, the arena's rent was reduced and the county council lowered the amusement tax.
Recent reports have suggested the county might repeal the tax break, to which Pollin said last night: "As far as I am concerned, these are rumors and nothing more. I am confident that the county government will maintain its commitment as I have kept mine."
Pollin's statement called the Capitals "Washington's team . . . and they will remain here. Continuing speculation is divisive and distracting. This is my last statement on the subject."
Pollin would not answer additional questions after reading the release.
Dennis Maruk said, "We've been going to Saskatoon or Tacoma-Seattle and other places, and I spent the summer here, watching everything that went on. Even with talking and thinking about it, you just try to go out and play hockey.
"Abe says the team is gonna stay, so I guess it's gonna stay."