WASHINGTON -- After 21 years, the Washington Capitals have a new look.
The Capitals entered the '90s yesterday by unveiling a souped-up logo, including a black swooping eagle, bronze stars and a darker shade of blue. They also presented a secondary logo, featuring the Capitol building backed by crossed hockey sticks.
Since 1974, the team has sported red, white and blue jerseys, with "Capitals" on the front. The new design is intended to give the team a more aggressive presence on the ice, while keeping some of the patriotic elements of the old uniforms.
The uniforms are the brainchild of Sean Michael Edwards Design, the firm that created or altered the images of the Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and several NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball teams.
"The National Hockey League has drastically increased in popularity and exposure in the U.S. and internationally. We want to be a part of that," said Dick Patrick, the team's president. "We want to be the most exciting team in the most exciting league in the world."
The new logo and uniforms are part of an intense marketing plan focusing on the future of the franchise. Washington brought up nine rookies last season, including Jim Carey, 21, who developed into a candidate for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) and Vezina Trophy (top goalie). Peter Bondra, 27, led the league in goals.
In two years, the Caps plan to move to the state-of-the-art MCI Center in downtown Washington.
"This is a very exciting day for the Washington Capitals. With the new arena and logo, we are entering a new era, and we have a new spirit here," said Capitals owner Abe Pollin. "This time next year we will still be playing in the playoffs. That's a promise and it's something we will live up to."
His players, nine of whom attended yesterday's announcement, also are optimistic.
Although Dale Hunter, the team captain who is entering his ninth season with Washington, said he is a little sad to say goodbye to the old red, white and blue, he was like a kid with his first Little League uniform when presented with his new jersey. He kept tugging on the sweater to get a better fit.
"Maybe next year we'll fly like the eagle on our jerseys all the way to the Stanley Cup," Hunter said. "It was time for a change. It was a great idea."
The new uniforms have left Carey with a fashion dilemma.
Carey wore his minor-league helmet all of last season, despite his meteoric rise in the NHL. Now, he is torn between keeping his beloved red, white and black Portland Pirates headgear or going along with the new look.
"I told the guy who paints my helmets I wanted to wait and see the new logo, but now I'm not sure what I want to do," Carey said. "I don't think anyone will mind if I stick with my pal the pirate, but I don't know. When I get used to something, I usually stick with it."
There is a chance Bondra will not have to adjust to the new jerseys. Bondra, a free agent with compensation, wants to become the highest-paid player on the Caps. Defenseman Mark Tinordi currently has that honor, at $2.2 million a year.
Last season, Bondra made $449,000 while putting up the best numbers of his career. He and his agent, Richard Winter, have just started negotiating with Poile, and Bondra said he has not received offers from other teams.
"I love playing here," Bondra said. "I want to be in Washington to play in the new uniforms."
* Washington has until midnight July 7 to sign 1993 first-round draft pick (11th overall) Brendan Witt. Negotiations hit a snag in September when Witt fled training camp. Then the defenseman refused to report to his Western Hockey League team and sat out the season. If the Capitals fail to sign him, they will be compensated with a second-round selection in the July 8 draft.
"It's a priority to sign him, but whether we are able to do so or not, I just don't know," Poile said.