Patrick on Caps' Early Days

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Caps president Dick Patrick in advance of his Lester Patrick ceremony in Dallas tonight. One of the subjects we discussed at length was his initial involvement with the Capitals more than three decades ago and the team’s subsequent hiring of David Poile as the team’s general manager. The Poile hiring proved to be crucial to the team’s long-term viability in the District. “It was sort of happenstance at the time,” recalls Patrick. “I’d played hockey in school growing up, in college, and then went to law school and was starting another chapter of my life, another route. I was still a fan, still getting out to the Capitals games when they started [as a franchise]. “I knew Milt Schmidt from the past [Ed: Patrick’s uncle Lynn was Bruins’ general manager during the days in which Schmidt was a player and later a coach in Boston.]; he was the first manager, so I visited with him and came out to some games. Then, there came a time at one point where Abe Pollin was thinking of selling the Capitals, and I was at the time practicing law and doing some real estate development. A mutual acquaintance put us in contact, and we had some discussions about me buying the Capitals. At the time Abe [was at a point] in his career where he wanted to test things out and he ended up retaining [the team]. “We switched to another approach a year or so later where the Capitals were struggling out of the gate, and they hadn’t made the playoffs yet, so he wanted to bring in new investors, new life. That whole “Save the Caps” campaign started as part of that. “I was contacted during that time, and I invested with a couple of business partners for a relatively small amount at the time, and I became executive vice-president of the team handling the hockey side. Abe and his advisors had, at the time, sort of backed off because they hadn’t had success they wanted. It was unusual because I hadn’t had much of a history with Abe, and not having such a big percentage of the team, it sort of got turned over to me to find the new general manager, organize the team, and going from there which, looking back, is nothing I’d ever do [again]. “And then a year or so later, Abe asked me about increasing my interest in the team, and I bought more of the team at that point and became more involved. “I know in hiring David [Poile], that it fell to me at Abe’s request to do the search. Well I called people I knew. I called people I knew. I called Emile Francis, who worked for my dad in New York. I called Scott Bowman, who worked for my uncle. I called my cousin Craig [Patrick] and got some ideas, and then names started to come to the top, Dave’s being one of them. “I made another round, I called my father then, and he didn’t know Dave really, but gave me input about the family, the great hockey tradition of their family, so David became my choice. I presented him to Abe, and Abe liked him. “I still remember David getting off the plane after being hired, it was August; training camp was about to start. I’d picked him up at National Airport, and he was dragging the biggest suitcase I’d seen in my life. I think he had all the clothes he owned in there because he was coming here, and his wife Liz was going to take care of selling the house in Calgary and bringing the kids out, and he was here for the duration. “I recall within a few weeks he made that huge trade, and put his stamp on the organization. He was really a stabilizing influence for years. It was one of those trades; it did turn the franchise around. People think that means it was one-sided, but it wasn’t. Ryan Walter and Rick Green were great players, and they won a Cup up there [in Montreal[, but the Capitals hadn’t been successful yet. They’d had some good players; those two, Mike Gartner, Bengt Gustafsson and Bobby Carpenter had started playing. They just hadn’t gotten over the hump. Bringing in Rod, in particular, and Brian Engblom, and Doug Jarvis, all those experienced guys made a difference. Craig Laughlin was actually a young guy, and he turned into a scorer. It put a new face on the franchise, and the franchise was poised to do something more than it had. It took off and never looked back. “Langway gave the franchise new credibility, and he became the face of it. He won two Norris Trophies and took it from there.”

next up:

Big Night in Big D

January 14, 2013

A shade less than 20 years ago, the Dallas Stars won their first game in their new Texas home, defeating the Detroit Red Wings by a 6-4 count on Oct. 5, 1993. Mike Modano scored one of the six Stars goals that night, pacing a team that was laced with former and future Capitals: James Black, Paul

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