Several weeks ago, before a full house at Capital Centre, a skater five times broke in alone on the goalie. Five times, his initial deke sent the netminder sprawling; three times the shooter scored.
It was an amazing display of stick-handling skill, but Doug Robson is not a member of either the Washington Capitals or the Philadelphia Flyers, who were to play to a memorable 3-3 National Hockey League tie that Sunday afternoon. Instead, 11-year-old Robson plays for Chevy Chase Club and was competing in the mini-one-on-one contest that Capital Centre people sponsor between periods of apitals home games.
It must have been a thrill to compete before a crowd of 18,130 and it also must ave felt odd to be skating in midafternoon. Mainly, the Beltway League players perform at less-desirable hours - at least for their parents - such as 5 a.m. And, in the case of the Chevy Chase players, under the lights on an outdoor ice surface.
Some of the best of the Beltway League players will return to Capital Centre Saturday - starting at 6 a.m. - when the championship games in all divisions will be conducted.
The Beltway League is composed of six clubs: Capitol Boys, which skates out of Ft. Dupont and Tyson's Bowie; Wheaton, which uses the rink at Wheaton Regional Park; Chevy Chase, a members-only program, excepting sons of coaches; Fairfax, and Benfield, 10 miles north of Bowie. The program includes more than 1,100 players.
Players as young as are enrolled at various levels. The organizes play starts with mites 8 and under) and continues with squirts 9-10), pee wees 11-12), bantams (13-14) and midgets (15-17).
The program is most competitive at the younger age levels. "A void starts at the high school age - there is so little activity for that group," said Dick Kernan of the Wheaton program.
Steve Gunther is a former Yale star, former member of the Washington Chiefs semipro team and a Washington physician. He is also young Robson's coach at Chevy Chase. He says the competition at the younger levels is keener than that he experienced growing up in Troy, N.Y. "these kids get as much ice time as I did," he said.
Thus far the most notable graduates of the Beltway League are defenseman Kevin McCloskey, who plays with Calgary in the Western Canada (Junior A) Hockey League; Billy Hoffman (Michigan Tech); Mike Thompson (West Point); Jeff Wright (Merrimack); goalie Barney Bupert (New Hampshire), and netminder Neal Coyer, a 17-year-old Woodward High Senior who plays for Wheaton in the Chesapeake Hockey League.
Another program winding down is the Chesapeake league. The senior league that plays its games at Ft. Dupont and Bowie will conclude its season Tuesday, although the top two teams will compete in postseason tournaments.
Champion Olympics will play in a senior men's tournament in Philadelphia April 9-10. Second-place Caravan will compete in a senior invitational tournament in Montreal, April 2-3.
Since the Washington Chiefs disbanded when the Coliseum shut down, the five-team Chesapeake league has provided the best non-NHL hockey in the Washington area.
Many of its players have college hockey experience; some are transplanted Canadians. Some, such as Minnesota Sen. Wendell Anderson and U.S. Attorney Earl Silbert are more noted for other activities, although Anderson was a member of two-time NCAA finalist University of Minnesota and then a U.S. Olypian.
Brett Lewis of Olympics has a solid hold on the Chesapeake scoring leadership, with 37 points on 16 goals and 21 assists in 18 games. Teammate Jim Makinen (14-19) and Ty Anderson of fourth-place Bowie (21-12) trail by four points. The leading goalies are Stu Johnson of third-place Fairadax with a 222 goals-per-game average and Caravan's Larry Duke (2.36).
Many of the Chesapeake players are young professional people and only the Caravan team has a sponsor. "Most guys pay their own way," said league president L. E. (Stan) Stanfield. "The team get no practice. So as the season gets longer, the scores get lower."
Stanfield is also interested in helping the youngsters most neglected by the Beltway League, the 16- to 18-year-olds. He recently took a group of the younger players to upstate New York, where they won two of three games.