The Capitals may be having trouble making any trades, but them as has gets - right there in their Norris Division of the NHL.
The Montreal Canadiens, the game's biggest "hases," got Pierre Larouche, a budding superstar center, yesterday in trade with intradivision pursuer Pittsburgh. The Penguins gave up Larouche, 22, for center Peter Mahovlich, 31, a Canadian since 1969 who hasn't been playing a whole lot this term, and right wing Peter Lee, 21, off the Habs' Nova Scotia farm.
Larouche, as a big fish in a little pond on the so-so Penguin club, grew a little too big for his britches last year after a 53-goal, 58-assist sophomore campaign in 1975-76. Attitude problem, hard to handle and missed practices as suspension by the club testified and he fell off to 29 goals. This season, coming off ankle surgery in August, he had six goals, five assists in 20 games - going into last night's game in Montreal against - who but the Penguins.
As a member of the champions, Larouche must recognize he won't be solo No. 1, but as Canadian GM Sam Pollock noted, "We have always had our eyes on Larouche, since his junior days, and we'll also get a future Penguins choice." Those junior days for Larouche - who will be put on a line with Rejean Houle and Yvan Cournoyer or Pierre Mondou - were with the Sorel team and now, he said. "It's like a miracle to come home and play in my own backyard and on the team of my former idol, Jean Beliveau" . . .
Time continous to mow down Murderers Row, the famed New York Yankee batting order of a half-century ago. Died in Downey, Calif., at 81: Bob Meusel, who battled cleanup in the 1926 World Series - between Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig - then swung fifth, right after Gehrig, on the 1927 Bronx Bombers regarded as baseball's premier team of all time by many old-timers (and some youngster). Ten of Meusel's major league seasons were with the yanks as he complied a career .309 batting average. In 1925 he led the American League with 23 home runs and 138 RBI: in the 1921-22-23 World Series, there was a Meusel in the outfield, usually left field, virtually throughout - Bob for the Yanks and his brother Emil (Irish) Meusel for the N.Y. Giants . . .
Time has run out for the YMCA, 87 years old, at 18th and G Streets NW. It closes its doors forever at 5:30 p.m. today. And the Nautilus Aquatic Club at the Y, coincidentally marking its 16th anniversary, will swim its last laps in the pool there, just before closing. Les Finnegan of Nautilus calculates in 40 years swimming nearly daily at the YMCA pool he has logged 11,800 miles. And now - with the other downtown pool, the Ambassador, closed again after a brief revival - it's dry season. The new downtown YMCA won't be open for swimming until mid-January at the earliest . . .
Angry Texas vs. Notre Dame in the Marriott Bowl at Dallas, cont'd: Marriott vice president Sam Huff called Texas athletic director Darrell Royal with the offer of free rooms for the "displaced" Longhorn entourage Cotton Bowl weekend after the Irish beat them to their usual quarters in the motel closest to the stadium - 100 to 130 rooms for three to five nights at a cost to the hotel of $12,500-$21,000. But that was in a Marriott several miles further from the Cotton Bowl. And, yesterday, Texas assistant athletic director Bill Ellington - saying he had not seen Huff, who was expected in Austin with the olive branch and free offer - announced the UT group will stay at the Le Baron Hotel in Dallas: "Coach (Fred) Akers is well pleased" . . .
The Southeastern Conference has decided that the current membership of 10 is a crowd and will not expand "now or in the near future." Georgia Tech, which withdrew from the SEC in 1964, was seeking to rejoin . . . NOt only did Penn State's victory over Pitt earn Nittany its 11th Lambert Trophy in 13 years as best in the East, but its third East Indies Cup in the four-year history of that award as top Eastern independent in college football . . .
"Last night I had the toughest meeting I ever had in my life with my players and my wife." Dick Vitala sobbed to the media in Detroit yesterday."After three major bleeds, I've had it. I am not going to stand on the sidelines and rip my guts."
With that, Vitale at 37, coming off, a 25-4, NCAA-bid-capped 1976-77 basketball season, gave up the coaching reins at University of Detroit (he'll stay as athletic director) and turned them over to assistant Dave Gaines, them over to assistant Dave Gaines, 36, a former Harlem Globetrotter and ABA Kentucky Colonel. That's a bleeding ulcer that forced the decision on Vitale after four years as Titan coach: "I've such a perfectionist - the way they lace their sneakers, how high they have their socks has to be just right . . . I drive myself so internally, it just tears at me.
"I always wanted to be a pro coach.I guess that's out the window now," said Vitale. Then: "I'm not closing the door . . . If I'm going to be unhappy not coaching, I'd rather be on the floor. If I have to go that way, I'll go that way."