Goalie Gary Inness, who sat around Philadelphia a year and a half waiting to play, has experienced no such delay with the Washington Capitals.
Signed to a Washington contract yesterday, Inness will be in the nets tonight when the Capitals meet his old team, the Flyers, at 7:30 o'clock at Capital Centre.
Although six of eight previous Flyers visits were 18,130 sellouts and the Broad Street Bullies have never played to more than 500 empty seats, tonight's game is not expected to draw more than 13,000.
"I would get tremendous pleasure for everyone in theer would, too." Inness said yesterday, pointing to the Capitals' dressing room.
Washington never has beaten Philadelphia in 16 meetings, although three games here resulted in ties. Inness was an 11-2 winner over the Capitals in 1976, in one of only eight games he played for the Flyers as backup to Bernie Parent and Wayne Stephenson.Earlier, with Pittsburgh, Inness posted six victories and a tie against the Capitals.
Inness declined to sign his option contract with Philadelphia in September, 1977, instead joining the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association. It was that Club's demise at midnight Friday that made him available for Capital improvement.
"I like it in Philadelphia, but I knew I couldn't afford to sit any longer," Inness said. "It was tough to crack their lineup, with Bernie trying to come back and Steph an All-Star the year before. It was tough even to argue for some more ice time.
"It's still a shock that Indy just folded up like that. There were rumors every time a paycheck came due and you just tried to push it out of your mind. The guys even started joking about it, and then it was over.
"I kept a close eye on the NHL scorers in the Hockey News, but beyond that we had enough problems in Indy that I didn't think about the situation with any NHL teams. Then, after we got word that Indy was finished, I was quite pleasantly surprised to receive a call from Mr. (General Manager Max) McNab and I got an invitation to come in, and our talk proved fruitful.
"They've put it squarely on my shoulders. They expect me to do my best and I intend to give my best. I know quite a few guys in Philly, a lot of friends, but I guarantee that will be put aside tomorrow."
Inness watched the Capitals' 7-6 victory over Toronto here Sunday, in which victorious goalie Bernie Wolfe pulled a leg muscle that prevented him from practicing yesterday.
"I was impressed with the club," Inness said. "I know they can put the puck in the net and that takes a lot of pressure off the goaltender. If they keep bumping and keep scoring, things will be all right."
The Capitals will have to keep winning, more often than once a month at home, to alleviate some of the deficiencies at the box office. After 15 games, home attendance is off 42,807 from last season, or 2,854 per game.
The Capitals placed two-column ads in the Philadelphia newspapers Sunday. The headline read "Anybody in this town with a little drive can get Flyers' tickets." But Lou Corletto, Washington's director of group sales, said there had been no response.
"There are a number of reasons why this game isn't selling out, as the Flyers usually do," Corletto said. "It's a Tuesday night, it's just before Christmas, the Flyers come back here Jan. 9 and probably most important, the Philadelphia fans don't seem particularly excited about the Flyers this year."
Philadelphia climbed out of the Patrick Division cellar it has occupied since the season started, but the Fyers trail the first-place New York Islanders by seven points.
Only 500 Philadelphians are expected tonight.Previous games have lured more than 5,000 down 1-95, with resultant crescendos of sound within Capital Centre and bonanzas for beercan collectors outside.
Paul Holmgren, the Flyers' chief bully, will miss this one, too. He is serving a six-game suspension for banging his stick on the helmet of the Rangers' carol Vadnais.
Following yesterday's practice, the Capitals held their annual Christmas party for the players and their families. Besides Wolfe, who was marking his 27th birthday, defensemen Leif Svensson and Pete Scamurra were in no mood for levity. Svensson's general physical condition is such that the Capitals have ordered a blood count; Scamurra is resting a sore shoulder.