Washington Capitals Blast to the Past: 1974

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Washington Capitals organization’s existence in the NHL, Stars and Sticks will be celebrating the franchise with posts about each year of the team’s history, which I’ve coined “Blast to the Past.”

The first year: 1974

What do you think about when you think of 1974? The whole Watergate debacle? The release of Blazing Saddles? Duke Ellington’s death?

Well when I hear 1974, I think about the foundations of the Caps.

The Washington Capitals entered the NHL as an expansion team along with the Kansas City Scouts, currently the New Jersey Devils. The team was originally owned by Abe Pollin, who had the Capital Centre built in Landover, Maryland, to house  both his hockey and basketball club, the Washington Bullets. Pollin beat out other cities, such as Cleveland, Dallas, Phoenix, and San Diego for the rights to start a team in the nation’s capital.

In order to begin a hockey team, you need someone to find and hire a coaching staff as well as players. Pollin hired former Bruin, and current Hall of Famer, Milt Schmidt as the first General Manager of the Caps. Coming in as a new team, the Caps were at a huge disadvantage. While previously existing teams were stocked with veterans who knew all about professional hockey in North America, the Caps had to start from scratch.

The inaugural season for the Caps was dreadful, to say the least. The new club finished the season with a 8-67-5 record, totaling to 21 points. The 21 points were half the points tallied by the Caps inaugural companions, the Scouts. The team was only able to secure one win on the road their inaugural season, which came against the California Golden Seals. What a name.

The Caps sported a .131 winning percentage their inaugural season, which still stands as a record low today.

In a notable interview with Caps first head coach, Jim Anderson, a notable conversation ensued on the state of the team

Coach Jim Anderson said, “I’d rather find out my wife was cheating on me than keep losing like this. At least I could tell my wife to cut it out.” 

That’s how bad the Caps were their first season.

Trivia Facts:

  • The Caps chose Greg Joly with the first pick in team history and the first pick in the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft
  • Jim Hycuik scored the first goal in Caps history, but the Caps ended up losing to the Ranger 6-3 in the team’s first ever regular season game
  • The Caps beat the Chicago Blackhawks on October 17th to record the team’s first ever franchise win
  • Ron Lalonde recorded the first hat trick in Caps history in a 8-5 loss against the Detroit Red Wings
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