Washington Capital fans, somewhat disenchanted with the team's last game, are even less enthralled with the ticket game being played by the front office.
Although a playoff berth is merely a matter for conjecture at present and the regular season runs until April 6, the Capitals have asked season ticket holders to send payment in full, by March 21, for 14 home playoff games.
This means a payment for each seat of $168, $126 or $91, depending on location. For persons holding more than one ticket, those figures can force a dip into the savings amount.
Reaction was sufficient for Capital marketing director Tom Hipp to call, unsolicited, to explain how the Capitals arrived at the decision for the 14-game payment.
"We don't want people to think we're dumb, that we make decisions out here without sitting down and thinking them out," Hipp said. "We contacted a lot of other clubs and discussed their procedures and experiences in selling playoff tickets before we arrived at this.
"It is impossible, with a series ending one day and another starting two days later, to provide season ticket holders with the opportunity to retain their locations and then to hold a public sale. We'd have a riot out here."
But, for the Capitals to play as many as 14 home games, they would have to have home-ice advantage in the first three series, then carry the final to at least six games.
Actually, with no mathematical chance to finish higher than 11th and no realistic hope of surpassing 15th, the Capitals will not have home-ice advantage in any series. Eleven games, however farfetched that sounds, would at least have some mathematical basis.
It would seem the Caps could have come up with something more reasonable, perhaps a five-game requirement. Then, should Washington somehow upset Philadelphia in a best-of-five first round, tickets would already be allocated for the best-of-seven quarterfinal with Buffalo.
A few persons would dream beyond the quarterfinals but Hipp said, "How about the New York Rangers? Who would have expected them to make the finals last year?"
Not many so-called experts would have forecast the Rangers as a finalist, but at least they were the NHL's fifth-best team with a solid 91-point production. Washington currently 19th and 16 games under .500, is not in that class.
Assuming a miracle carries the Capitals past likely opponents Philadelphia and Buffalo into the semifinals, there are few season ticket holders who would not be delighted to line up for 24 hours or more at Captial Centre to assure seats for a semifinal series against Boston or Montreal.
Hipp, however, instead that the Capitals were merely considering the welfare of season ticket-holders in their decision, to make things as easy for them as possible.
The sad part is that some people think owner Abe Pollin is just trying to gather in all that money to collect a few week's interest. Many of the current season ticket holders carry only memories dating to 1974, when Pollin made what he calls his "greatest mistake."
After receiving 30,000 requests for information on season tickets sales, the newly delivered Capitals sold their birthright for a few pieces of silver by requiring purchasers to make payment in full by April 1, which concided with income tax returns.
Only 6,800 paid the price and the ready availability of single-game seats combined with poor preformance over the years, has reduced the current number to 4,600.
Meanwhile, while hockey people rejoined in the euphoria of the United States victory at Lake Placid, Capital Centre merely enjoined the crowd to sing the National Anthem in the players' honor. No thought apparently was given to signing the available free agents. Mike Eruzione and Buzz Schneider, to add some flair to a club that really is not very exciting.
St. Louis, the NHL's most improved team, visits Capital Centre tonight at 7:30. The Blues, only team not to appear here previously, have a full-season 48 a year ago . . . The big man for the Blues is goalie Mike Liut, a Bowling Green University product who has a 26-17-7 record and a 2.99 goals-against mark. Liut spent the last two seasons with Cincinnati in the World Hockey Association . . . One of the Blues' better defensive forwards is former Capital Hartland Monahan . . . All of the ailing Capitals skated at yesterday's practice. Pat Ribble, his right hand puffed up, will play tonight if the swelling drops sufficiently.