Youngters attending Sunday's game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Washington Capitals will be given T-shirts emblazoned "Property of Detroit Red Wings." It's questionable how many will accept them.
Being the property of the Red Wings is not a coverted condition these days, as right wing Michel Bergeron would attest. Bergeron, who set a Detroit rookie record of 32 goals last year, has only 16 this season and has been unmercifully booed by the fans at Olympia.
Fortunately for Bergeron and other targets of gallery wrath, the crowds have been too small to be threatening. Although the announced averaged is 9,718, observation based on previous Washington visits lends belief that the Wings' front office is doubling its measure.
It's a question how much longer the Wings will continue to bathe in red ink at Olympia, located in a crumbling area of town. The city of Detroit is about to begin construction of a riverfront arena, but the Wings are not committed to tenancy and are, apparently, more interested in a proposed building near Pontiac Stadium.
The Wings, who had lost six straight entering tonight's game at Toronto, are already looking ahead to next year. The are almost assured of the No. 1 amateur draft choice, they are negotiating for the Howe family and, according to coach Larry Wilson, "What we're doing now is trying to evaluate the talent here, seeing who, can play in the National Hockey league and who can't. We have to find out for next season."
Whether Wilson needs to find out is questionable, since general manager Alex Delvecchio has been on record since September as having hired another coach for next season, presumably Bobby Kromm of Winnipeg.
Washington, which has two victories and two ties in its four games with Detroit, will ice a flock of ex-Wings for their 4 p.m. contest (WTOP-1500 AM) Former Detroit players in Capital livery include Jack Lynch, Ace Bailey, Guy Charron, Bryan Watson, and Bill Collins.
In addition, there is reason to believe that goalie Roger Crozier, the most valuable player the last time Detroit reached the Stanley Cup final in 1966, will make his Washington debut against his old club.
"If he tells me to start, I'm ready," said Crozier, who will be 35 Wednesday. The "he" however, coach Tom McVie, as usual reserved his selection of goaltender for game day.
Defenseman Yvon Labre, who missed Thursday's game in Los Angeles because of a sprained ankel, is expected to be ready for this one.