The Washington Capital suffered their fourth straight defeat Saturday night in Pittsburgh, but at least they escaped with their lives. They need not have been so fortunate.
Late in the 5-1 Pittsburgh victory, lineman Willard Norris picked a large bolt off the ice and gave it to a security man at the Civic Arena. Then, as the game ended, Washington goalie Bernie Wolfe felt something strike the back of his helmet and slide off his uniform. It was another bolt.
"That was the biggest bolt I ever saw," Wolfe said. "It must have weighed eight ounces. With that helmet, I hardly felt it, but if I'd been wearing my old mask I know I would have felt it. A guy without a helmet would have been ripped open.
"I don't know how high it came from. If something like that was thrown from a reasonable height, it could kill a player."
Orest Kindrachuck, the Penguins' captain, called media representative together after the game and said, "Please writ something about this. The situation here is terrible. There is no place for anything like this in the game of hockey."
Unfortunately, hockey seems to build emotions to a point where some fans feel they must attack the visiting team. Many arenas have been forced to build coverings over the exit ramps used by visiting teams to leave the ice, to protect them from debris. A greater danger is the possibility of skating at high speed into an object.
A year gao, Pittsburgh goalie Denis Herron took off his mask after a game in Detroit and was struck in the face by a puck thrown from the stands.
In reported incidents during the last two years, an open-bladed knife landed on the ice at Capital Centre, ball bearings and 22-caliber bullets were tossed at players in Detroit and a live shotgun shell and a spanner wrench were hurled in Vancouver.
A Vancouver fan, Bogdan Pysznyi, spent 30 days in jail after he threw a rum bottle at Philadelphia's Bobby Clarke. The bottle missed, shattering on the ice, and two fans grabbed Pysnyi and held him for police.
"Bobby Clarke makes me mad," said Pysznyi, who had no record of violence.
Although Pittsburgh won Saturday night, the fans were frustrated because their hero, Dave Schultz, was battered in a fight with Washington rookie Paul Mulvey. Earlier, the crowd had chanted "We want Schultz" when the bad one was sitting down as a spare forward, then reacted joyously when he landed a couple of punches on Capital Bob Girard.
Mulvey was not around at the finish to be a target of nuts and bolts, because he was struck on the forhead by a puck off the stick of Pittsburgh's Peter Lee and required nine stitches. Defenseman pete Scamurra was hobbling on a bruised leg yesterday and his face was sore, after he was decked by the Penguins' Greg Malone, struck in the mouth by Malone's stick and helped off the ice.
"I need something like this to get me more involved," said Mulvey, who was still accepting teammates' congratulations yesterday. "I hit Schultzie on the boards and he said something . . ., so I figured this was the time. I'm happy . . ."
Coach Danny Belisle, angered by cheap penalties that set up the first three Pittsburgh goals, was not at all happy. Yet two things in the game pleased him. Mulvey's fistic victory and Wolfe's competent goaltending in a 40-save performance.
"Maybe if we have a few more guys who demand respect, the guys who should be putting the puck in the net will get more room" Belisle said. And Wolfe looked very capable. I'm glad to see that regardless of the outcome."