That other league, the World Hockey Association, is conducting its championship series here this week in relative obscurity. There are no television cameras, no hordes of reporters, no scuffles between players and fans. What the Avco Cup series does possess is enthusiasm, and a remarkably high level of skill.
"I think this may be as good as Boston - Montreal," said Winnipeg coach Bobby Kromm, after his Jets had beaten the Quebec Nordiques, 2-1, in a thrilling opener Wednesday night. "I wasn't too impressed with those first two games."
Six reporters who had motored 150 miles from Stanley Cup country in Montreal - paying $1.04 a gallon for gas en route - formed three-fifths of the inquisition Kromm faced outside the Jets' tiny dressing quarters. The visitors were increased by [WORD ILLEGIBLE] speedy [WORD ILLEGIBLE] - three are nine on the roster - and particularly Anders Harlberg, the 70 goal scorer who is quick to go from [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to end quick to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] a devostaking wrist shot.
"He's a great checker as well" Kromm said. "He's got the great speed. He can be caught, he'e one of the best wingers in the world and Guy Lefleur and Alexander Yakuahev."
Bobby Hull, the $600,000-a-year man whose golden locks have prospered while his 38 years have dulled his skills a bit, paused a moment to rub two teeth, loosened by a puck that scattered the bench, before offering his assessment of his Swedish linemates, Hedberg and center Ulf Nilson.
"They really skate, they give you end-to-end action," Hull said. "That's what people like, or what they used to like for the last 15 years. The Swedes have been schooled in basics. No matter what you ask them to do, they can do it."
Asked to compare the two leagues playoffs, Hull, often rumored returning to Chicago, said, "I don't know anything about the NHL, playoffs. But that's still a pretty good league (laughter). Let's stop writing about the bad things and write about the guys who work and skate and stop the puck. We're all in it for the same reason - entertainment."
Bill Lesuk, the Jets' checking specialist who left the Washington Capitals to be closer to his aging parents in Saskatchewan, said, "I don't know how we'd do in the NHL, but on any day we can play with anybody."
The Jets proved it by winning here, where the crowd can be a big plus for the home team. There is genuine enthusiasm, unlike the somewhat stilted atmosphere in Montreal.
At the Forum, the announcer, also the public relations man has a standard formula: "In less than two minutes, the Canadiens will be coming on the ice. Let's greet them the moment they come out." Then, on arrival, "Let's hear it for our Canadiens."
At le Colisse, no stimulant is necessary. The overflow crowd of 11,697 rose and screamed the instant a Nordique appeared in the tunnel leading from the dressing room.
There are only 10,000 seats in the building constructed for Jean Beliveau - "Le Gros Bill" - when he started for the Quebec Aces before succumbing to the Canadien's lure. The house is scaled from $6 to $12, a $2 rise for the playoffs but far below the $17.50 top in the Forum.
A harness-racing track is open adjacent to Le Colisee, but it is strictly a secondary attraction this night. Hockey is supreme in Quebec, and the daily Le Journal de Quebec, and the daily Le Journal de Quebec contains several full pages of reports of Avco Cup, Stanley Cup and Memorial Cup play, as well as a multi-headed report that the Chicago Black Hawks may buy up a few contracts.
As the Colisee doors open at 6:55, there is a stampede along the three corridors behind the various levels of seats. The standing-room purchasers are racing for the choicest locations. Prime standing room costs $9, but there are only eight rows of seats between supporting railing and action on the ice.
A $12 seat does not assure an enjoyable evening. The glass is low behind the goals and one shot ricoches off the heads of two women. One is carred out, the other supported is a first-aid-room.
In contrast to the well-dressed businessmen and matrons who sit so-quietly one can hear goalie Ken Dryden directing his teammates Nerdiques' fanatics are as much a hodge-podge as the architecture of their with a spare dollar love Florida, and shirts are in evidence, Canadiens old-new city. Even Florida sweat that is why the WHA will put a team biggest attraction is beer. On each there next season.
Aside from the Nordiques, the side of Le Colisee is a long bar, manned by eight attendants in white shirts and black bow ties. Business is brisk.
in the Forum, the French and English languages are carefully balanced; even the national anthem is sung half in each tongue. But in Le Colisee the rallying cry is "Madamoiselle From Armentiers" and the fleur de lis adorns the uniforms and shares the flagstaff. The secondary announcements seem an afterthought for the benefit of the visiting team. The only words of English in the entire program are a [WORD ILLEGIBLE] .
Certainly, Quebec is not [WORD ILLEGIBLE] for English- [WORD ILLEGIBLE] these days of enthusiasim for [WORD ILLEGIBLE] But the crowd at Le [WORD ILLEGIBLE] stood re-specifically for the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of "O Canada" and it was noteworthy, no debris was heaved on the ice when referee Bill Friday [WORD ILLEGIBLE] an apparent Quebec goal.
"Naisieuz," the crowd chanted instead, a word that roughly translates to "stupid."
Friday is one of the best of hockey referees, and there aren't too many good ones around. His control of the situation was in stark contrast to the absence of same in some recent Stanley Cup contests.
NHL president Clarence Campbell expects the WHA to "die a slow death" because of the junior league's geographical problems. A bigger problem is the struggle to gain some television exposure. Secretary of State John Roberts, spurred of demands on Parliament, has asked CBC to pick up some telecasts of the final series, because it is the first all-Canadian final series since the Montreal-Toronto Stanley Cup showdown of 1967.
CBC is pleading previous summitments, but it appears it will early the fourth [WORD ILLEGIBLE] from Winnipeg on a 24-hour delay plus the seventh game heres live, if one is needed.
Asked what he would do for four days in Quebec City, Peter Sullivan replied, "Go crazy." Sullivan [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the hard-working Winnipeg center who attended the first Washington Capitals training camp on a trial-basis, but was to Montreal for economic reasons, Sullivan scored 31 goals this season, centering Swedes Willy indstrom and Dap Labraaten.
Joe Dalem, the old Baltimore Clipper, is the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] goalie, and his 3 save effort Wednesday earned him an elaborate wood carving as the game's No. 1 star. Items like that, plus the prospect of another $12,000 winner's check, make obscurity a pretty good place to be playing these days.
The Washington Diplomats attempt to reach the .500 mark today when they host the Seattle Sounders in a North American soccer league game at RFK Stadium. Game time is 2:30 p.m. (WTOP-150).
"We would like to get two straight under our belt," said Washington coach Dennis Viollet. "We weren't exactly down in the dumps because we haven't been scoring lately, but everybody was getting a bit frustrated."
Before the Dips' road victory over the winless Chicago Sting, last week, Viollet should have considered ordering glasses for his front line. Washington was missing countless open shots and botched other scoring opportunities.
The Dips (2-3) beat Connecticut, 3-0, but were blanked 1-0 by Eastern Division rivals Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale.
Washington was outshot, 20-10, by Tampa Bay and 22-16 at Fort Lauderdale but had the better scoring chances.
Bobby Stokes, who replaced Peter Silvester, wasted little time making his presence known. The classy striker from Southampton, England, booted home the winning goal against the Sting.
Mike Lester, who scored the other goal, and Jimmy Redfera worked well with Stokes their first game together.
Viollet announced the same lineup that beat Chicago probably will start against the Sounders (2-3).Midfielder Gary Darrell twisted an ankle on the artificial surface in Chicago and may not play. If not, recent acquisitions Art Welch or Tony Macken will start.
"It depends on how fit Gary is," said Viollet. "It's good to be home. I felt we played good soccer in spots against Chicago. We began to create chances and the defense was excellent.
Washington's defensive unit of Roy Willner, Ken Hill, Don McAllister, Jim Steele and goalie Eric Martin have yielded only three goals in the last four games.
Seattle has scored five goals in five games this season. Its defense, however, is very aggressive. Mike England and Dave Gillett, both NASL All-Star defenders along with last year's top goalie Tony Chursky, anchor the Sounder stopper unit.
For Washington a victory today would go a long wwy toward establishing some consistency and team spirit.
Washington is last in the Eastern Division with 17 points. The top three teams in the four-team division advance to the playoffs.
This is the last Sunday afternoon game at RFK. The remaining nine home contests, six coming on Saturday, begin at 8 p.m. After today, Washington plays three games within nine days, all on the road.