FanPost

The WHA and The Caps

In today's Caps Clips the subject of who was the best player to play his entire career for the Caps, and in that discussion, the Bengt Gusstafsson's time in the WHA came up when he played for Edmonton in a few playoff games. The WHA was a shoddily run, fly-by-night league which caused the NHL a lot of grief, but it also caused all of us to be here. That may seem odd, but I will explain.

In the early 1970s, a gentleman by the name of Abe Pollin owned the NBA team that is now the Washington Wizards. They were, of course, called the Baltimore Bullets. Considering the sorry state of the Baltimore Arena even back then, he wanted a new facility for the Bullets, and he wanted it a lot closer to DC, as in right outside of DC in Landover. It would be considered part of DC, and at the same time, since it was right off of I-95 it'd be less than an hour from Baltimore. And he wanted help from the state of Maryland and PG County to build it.

The state and county liked the idea of a new arena, but they weren't so keen on investing in the arena unless Abe was able to secure another tenant, meaning hockey. This is where the WHA comes in. In the early 1970s the WHA were handing out franchises like they were candy from a Pez dispenser (keeping with 1970s theme, you youngsters can google it...). Any city that had an arena could get a hockey team from the WHA. The NHL saw this happening and began handing out teams in markets where there already was a team (the New York Islanders) and into non-traditional hockey markets (Atlanta, Kansas City and Washington). The NHL hoped these teams would prosper (one did right away off the ice, three no-so-much. On the ice, two did ok, two were pretty awful), but if they didn't they knew they could keep the WHA from these markets.

So Abe goes to the NHL, shows them the plans for the building that would become the Capital Centre, and as part of his pitch hints that if the NHL doesn't award him the team, he'd be going to the WHA and he knew he'd be able to get a team from them. The NHL blinked, and awarded Washington a team to start in 1974-75. And so Abe then was able to secure funding from PG County and Maryland for the arena.

And so began the existence of the Washington Capitals. And if you are a long time fan and felt that the Caps were an afterthought in Abe's mind, you were right. He openly admitted it in 1999 when he sold the Caps along with a share of the arena to Ted Leonsis (the key to Ted taking the deal in the shape it was in was that Ted would get Right of First Refusal on the rest of Abe's holdings in the VC, the Wizards, and the TicketMaster franchise).

So indirectly, we have to thank the WHA for the birth of the Caps. So lets hear it for the San Diego Mariners, Cleveland Crusaders, Cincinnati Stingers and Birmingham Bulls, and all the other insanity that was the World Hockey Association. If not for them, there might not be any Washington NHL at all.

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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