Mike Palmateer, the Washington Capital goalie, motored into town at 5:30 Tuesday morning, slept for two hours in the house he purchased from Robert Picard and was off to Fort Dupont, where he quickly began infecting new teammates with his boundless enthusiasm.
"I'm really excited about this season," Palmateer said. "We're going to play some exciting hockey and put the Redskins back on Page 5."
A guy coming here from Toronto, where the football Argos are routinely shunted aside by news of Maple Leaf contract squabbles, will need a while to understand that the Redskins, win or lose, will dominate Page 1 until December.
Palmateer figures to generate a lot of news himself, however, and win or lose, there will be excitement in the Capitals' nets. During the voluntary workouts at Fort Dupont Tuesday and Wednesday, Palmateer skated around much of the defensive zone, as is his wont, frequently leaving the twines unguarded.
Palmateer likes to travel, both on and off the job, and his summer has been spent in Sweden, Mexico and the Bahamas, as well as the zoo in hometown Toronto, where he conducted tours for charity.
He acquired a brown belt in judo, a recent avocation, and said, "I'm a quick learner. It's good for the reflexes and coordination."
In Sweden, Palmateer was part of a Team Canada group that competed against Team Europe in the televised European Superstars series. "It's not as serious as our Superstars," Palmateer said. "It's a fun event, all done in one evening, with a lot of crazy things like bike riding with an egg-shaped back wheel, roller skating around a little track, a go-kart race, a tug of war and an obstacle course."
Only Palmateer's backup, Wayne Stephenson, has not attended the sessions at Fort Dupont, which conclude today. Regular, authorized camp begins Sunday in Hershey, Pa.
The Dupont scrimmages, played in frozen-pond fashion without benefit of referee, have demonstrated a few facts -- Guy Charron and Greg Polis have bounced back in good shape from surgery, while Yvon Labre's knee is still tender. Antero Lehtonen should challenge for a left wing spot, after a month's training with his old club in Finland. Jean Pronovost has the moves to make an important contribution.
Coach Gary Green has watched from the stands, careful not to interfere with coach-for-a-week Ryan Walter's handling of the veterans' workout. The Capitals are pleased with the players' response to the early sessions; they want no grievances flowing from the NHL Players Association, which displayed chip-on-shoulder tendencies in voting out overtime earlier this week.
Actually, Green is occupied with something else this week. The Capitals have obtained a radio hookup that will enable Assistant Coach Bill Mahoney, watching from a high perch, to communicate with Green behind the bench. It is a system similar to that Roger Neilson used to send ideas down to Scotty Bowman in Buffalo last season, although Green will not assign an aide, as Bowman did Jim Roberts, to monitor the calls.
"I'm not sure yet who will take the calls," Green said. "I don't expect to wear a headset. Maybe (trainer) Gump (Embro) or one of the stickboys will wear one and let me know when Bill has something to pass on. This will work just like a phone at home, but it will be a real advantage on the road. There's no static and no way anybody can jam it."
Before he left for Toronto, Picard played in a golf tournament at Tantalon. His prize was two tickets to the Capitals' opening game. . . The week's highlight at Fort Dupont was the inadvertent collision between Bob Kelly, backing into the rink while greeting old acquaintances, and Gary Rissling, emerging from the dressing rom. The old fistic rivals shook hands warmly. . . The San Diego chicken will cluck at the home opener against Winnipeg Oct. 10. . . Former Capital goalie Jim Bedard has been invited to Toronto's training camp.