The Washington Capitals put away the ropes, weight jackets and multimessaged T-shirts in favor of coats and ties today and began the first leg of their journey to Stockholm, via Pittsburg, Toronto and Frankfurt.
The 26-man traveling squad was drawn entirely from the 29 members of group A in this most organized of training camps. Left behind, unhappy but hardly surprised, were wingers Greg Polis, Mark Lofthouse and Tony Casolato.
If there was a raised eyebrow over any selection for the team that will play next week in Sweden, it was that of left wing Gary Rissling, almost certain to start the season here with the Bears. "There must be reward for effort," Max McNab, general manager, said, "and Gary has given 100 percent here."
There never was any doubt that the club's four Scandinavians -- Rolf Edberg, Bengt Gustafsson, Leif Svensson and Finn Antero -- would be in the traveling party. But those who watched Lehtonen last year and figure he was chosen because of nationality may be reassured. He earned it, too.
A year ago, in his first venture into North American hockey, Lehtonen suffered a broken finger on the first day of training camp. He missed three weeks of work and never recovered. Although he played in 65 games, many appearances were brief. He scored only nine goals and never played with confidence.
The first week of camp this year has featured a different Lehtonen. He spent a month with his old team in Finland, reported in excellent condition and has been impressive in every drill.
As a penalty killer, he is so completly distrupted Darren Veitch's passing and shooting that Veitch later said, "He was picking off everything. He was really quick out there."
A shoot by Lehtonen from the left point in the warmup shattered goalie Rollie Bountin's stick. And the Finn did not hesitate, as he seemed to a year ago, in using his body. Today he dealt with jarring checks to Ryan Walter and Rissling.
"It is important to work hard now and do everything possible," Lehonen said. "I worked harder back in Finland and I'm in better shape now than last year. My biggest weakness before was conditioning."
"I had to work alone about three weeks at the moment when the others were hustling during training camp. I lost quite a bit of conditioning at that time. When I played, I would play two games pretty good, the third bad and the fourth bad. Then I would be rested a week, I would play two pretty good and two more bad."
"It is a big jump from Finland to the National Hockey League and I don't think there are many Finns who can play here (there are five in the NHL). For me, it's harder now, because the team is better and there is a lot more competition."
"I'm hopeful, although. I think I can make it. The biggest thing is I want to prove myself, to see if I can play in the National Hockey League."
Lehtonen came to the Capitals' attention because of his blazing shot, and attribute that earned him the nickname of "The Cannon" from his teammates.
"The last five years in Finland I was either first or second scorer on my team (Tappara)," Lehtonen said. "Most of the others worked, but I was studying (law) and I was able to spend mornings on the ice. I practiced my shot at that time.
"It really helps here. You have to be quick to get the pass in the circle.
There's not a lot of time."
As Veitch has attested, Lehtonen is quick.
Veithch and Bob Kelly exchanged some solid checks in this morning's scrimmage . . .Veitch was embarrassed again when Guy Cahrron stole the puck and scored, but Coach Gary Green nevertheless was impressed with the Capitals' No. 1 draft choice: "He's cool, he's calm and he's not intimidated." . . Defenseman Howard Walker is recovering quickly from the charley horse in his right leg. He was taken to Sweden and, although likely to miss Monday's game against Minnesota, should be ready to face two Swedish teams, AIK on Friday . . . Rick Green needed stitches to repair a slashed left elbow today and commented, "It always happens in practice." He missed almost half a season with a broken wrist suffered in practice in 1977 . . . While the lucky 26 visit Sweden, the remaining 30 will continue to toil here under Roger Crozier and Bryan Murray.