The United States Capital and the Washington Monument behind it were gleaming in the new-fallen snow, a perfect postcard setting that conveyed a distorted sense of serenity in the city.
"You have Russian winter. This like Moscow. Very beautiful," said a tall man with gold teeth as he peered out the window at the Fort Dupont ice rink, oblivious to what he was looking at until told.
He was part of the entourage of the Dynamo, a Soviet ice hockey team which was practicing at the rink in preparation for Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. game against the Washington Capitals at Capital Centre.
The game will be the eighth in the Dynamo's exhibition tour against National Hockey League teams and the first in the United States since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
The team arrived at its suburban Washington hotel from Canada at midnight and had not had a chance to see anything but a few monuments and memorials from a distance.
"Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" was playing on the loud-speaker at the 23 players and assorted Soviet officials arrived in heavy winter clothes at the rink accompanied by NHL security men Al Wiseman and Bill Brooks.
"Not yet," both men answered when asked if there had been any security problems. "They've been well received and there certainly haven't been any demonstrations," added Wiseman. Capital Centre has beefed up security for the game.
The 30 or so onlookers -- some of them young boys in jackets emblazoned "Americans," a local jockey team nicknamed -- watched quietly from the stands, studying the Russians' different style of play.
One observer, John Winston, a lawyer who has season tickets to the Capitals, said he came to the practice because he was impressed with the Russians' skating skills.
But, Winston added. "I'm very ambivalent. I don't know if I'm (not) going to go to that game Tuesday night as a token opposition, especially if (the Dynamo) share in any gate receipts. (They don't.) I'm very upset with the whole situation in Afghanistan."
Dynamo Coach Vitali Davidov was asked through interpreter Mikhail Grachev if he or the team felt any extra tension.
"We don't have any information on what is happening over there," Davidov said, adding that since the players do not speak English, they wouldn't understand any taunts.
But there are words they understand very well -- words like "John Travolta," "Bee Gees" and "pop music."
Like other Soviet sports teams that have visited this country, members of the Dynamo share a common passion for blue jeans, stereo equipment, "pop music," warm Coca-Cola, women's pantyhose (which they reportedly buy by the suitcaseful to bring home), American football on television, and movies.
They have seen "The Deer Hunter," "Saturday Night Fever" and "Star Trek" on this tour. "Usually we like to see comedies," said Davidov.
But how do they understand them if they don't speak English? "That's why we have an interpreter," he replied and Grachev, chain-smoking Marlboros, added that when they go back to the hotel he explains the film to them.
Based upon this reviewing system, they reportedly loved "Saturday Night Fever" and found "Star Wars" to be a turkey.
Vladimir Myshkin, 24, is the Dynamo's star goalie, whose 6-0 shutout clinched the Challenge Cup for the Soviets in last year's all-star tournament against the NHL.
When he is not playing hockey, which isn't often, Myshkin said he is a student at the Institute of Physical Culture and Sports.
Myshkin entered the rink in an "army green," orange-lined parka, (like three-quarters of the delegation were wearing), a fur "Russian" hat, a satiny blue T-shirt, blue jeans and Adidas sneakers. This is his sixth trip to the United States and he obviously came dressed for it.