The world champion Washington Bullets took bows and the Washington Capitals tried to keep their chins up yesterday at the annual winter sports Welcome Home Luncheon at the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Americana.
Owner Abe Pollin was presented with a framed sketch of that famous "fat lady" and said, "There are few fields of endeavor where you can stand up and say you are a member of the champions of the world."
Pollin then called attention to his hockey hopefuls, sayings, "As far as the hockey team is concerned, we have struggled, we are struggling and we will continue to struggle. We will never stop struggling until we also reach the pinnacle."
The Capitals were struggling just to maintain their appetites after Tuesday night's 7-1 thrashing by the American Hockey League Maine Mariners.
Bullet Coach Dick Motta related ancedotes while introducing each of his players, but Capital Coach Tom McVie merely named names. There were a lot of them - 34 in all - becaue it had been a struggle to find 19 capable of fighting the National Hockey League wars.
"Every time we win a hockey game I think we're having a great training camp," McVie said, "and every time we lose I think we're having a terrible training camp. Last night I thought out world have come to an end. But we're going to keep working on it until we get it right."
McVie was introduced by master of ceremonies Warner Wolf as the winner of "the patience award of the year. Anybody who coaches the Washington Capitals has to be patient."
McVie has been patient a long time, however, and there was a resigned tone to his voice earlier in the day, on the plane bringing the team from Portland, Maine. A hostess repeatedly ignored his attempt to rid himself of an empty coffee cup and McVie said, "Oh, well, why should you listen to me? Nobody else does."
Morris Siegel relieved Wolf of emcee because the onetime sports voice of Washington had to leave early to return to his present domicile, New York Siegel chased Wolf with the remark, "He's suffering from job insecurity, that's why he has to leave." Wolf was then given a "hoo of the week."
While the Capitals fidgeted, Siegel said, "The red light was on so often behind the Capitals' goal last year, the Prince George's police confused it for a red-light district."
It took Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry to offer a note of encouragement: "I've been with the Bullets 15 years and when I came here from the Detroit Pistons we really struggled to win. We won only 15 or 20 games, but the right things happened - some were planned and some were luck - and here we are world champions. I hope it doesn't take you that long."
Jo Ann Bonner, immediate past president of the Prince George's County Public Relations Association, had the last word: "Next year we'll be honoring not only the NBA champs but the Stanley Cup winners, too."
That line left everyone choked up.
Among Motta's introductory remarks:
Kevin Grevey: "John (Lally) has designed a body cast for him, not because of injury but to protest our daughters and girl friends."
Elvin Hayes: "He was my childhood hero."
Tommy Henderson: "He made that great pass to Mitch (Kupchak) and followed the ball into the hole, then flopped to the floor. There was a 20-second timeout and when we got out he said, "I hope my mom is watching."
Wes Unseld: "Contrary to popular opinion, we do have two plays designed for Wes to shoot. We'll take one of them out when the season starts."