For Bob Kelly, Mike Palmateer and Alan Hangsleben, the long, long weekend was something to cherish, a journey into nostalgia that produced some Capital memories for the future.
On Friday, in Hershey, Kelly was facing his old Philadelphia teammates for the first time, after 10 years as a Flyer. At first, he served as a peacemaker during numerous bumping incidents. Then, suddenly, the Flyers' Gary Morrison left the bench to chase Bengt Gustafsson and there was Kelly, off the bench as well, helping to ignite an all-hands brawl. Now, unless the Capitals can convince the NHL that Morrison was the culprit, Kelly faces a three-game suspension.
Ryan Walter took the role of jersey tugger in the lengthy battle and was the first to be kicked out of a riotous contest that produced 325 minutes in penalties and a 7-2 Washington victory. Disbelieving, Walter stood in the runway to the dressing room, a picture of outraged innocence.
"It was frustrating sitting in the stands, watching the guys," Walter said later. "I found out about a new penalty called persistence. I didn't even fight; I was just pulling at jerseys."
Then there was Gustafsson, known affectionately to teammates as "the Swedish goon," who ignited the war by sidestepping Philly's charging Yves Preston, who wound up on his knees in pain.
"I saw him coming, so I took a step back and he hit the board. Then everybody went crazy," said Gustafsson, the two slash marks on his neck affirming the craziness of some of his opponents.
Palmateer, who expected a night off, played 30 minutes after Wayne Stephenson was ejected and wound up in three physical confrontations. At 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, he is not a fighter, but here he was afterward, confessing to slashing Philly bad boy Paul Holmgren before Holmgren clubbed him over the head.
"Yeah, I slashed him," Palmateer said. "Paul's got to know by now that if he stands in front of the crease it's my job to clear him. There's no hard feelings. It's his job to upset me, too."
Saturday in Toronto nothing could upset Palmateer. He was spectacular in the nets as Washington won, 6-1, and a lot of folks wearing old No. 29 jerseys loved every minute of it. So did Palmateer's father, who sat among 25 other new Capital fans, then visited the dressing room and shook hands all around.
There was another visitor after the game, Toronto defenseman Robert Picard, who suffered through a minus-five night. A lot of guys would have disappeared quietly after that one, but Picard and his wife Mary came over to talk to old Washington friends.
"I wanted to win so bad," Picard said. "I was shaking when I came to the rink and I told the guys not to be surprised if I did some things I don't usually do. I guess all I did was make mistakes."
Palmateer made none, however, and afterward he held court while old friends besieged him. The Capitals' bus resembled a surrounded rock group as the team tried to escape to the airport.
"It was only an exhibition game, but it was a great feeling to win," Palmateer said. "I'm looking forward to the first time we meet in the schedule, but this was the sweetest because it was the first. I was looking around for Mr. Ballard, but I notice he left his box with eight minutes to go."
Toronto owner Harold Ballard, who had said the Leafs would not miss Palmateer, was not available for further comment. But his coach, Joe Crozier, had a few things to say, among them, "Washington outmuscled us and outskated us and beat us in the corners. And that kid in goal makde some great saves."
Hangsleben warmed up for his return to Hartford by pounding Toronto's Rick Vaive to his knees in a battle between a couple of tough fist swingers.
All was love and kisses in Hartford, however, as mosst of the signs welcoming Hangsleben back mentiones "Luv" and platoons of female fans cheered louder for Hangsleben's score than the Whalers' frequent goals in a 9-4 rout of the weary travelers.
Trainer Gump Embro took a look at Hangsleben's No. 12 jersey, tattered a bit in his fight with Vaive, and pulled out a nameless No. 13 to hang in Hangsleben's cubicle before the game.
"They don't need your name. Everybody knows you," Embro said before handing over No. 12.
"I do have a lot of friends here," Hangsleben said."I think it's going to be a lot worse when we come back in the regular season."
When the Capitals return, at least they will know how to leave the building. A late-departing group, exploring back stairs with barred doors, objected to a writer's comment that "this maze makes a better story than the game."
Yesterday morning the players waited in the airport bus for a late departee, rookie Howard Walker. Rookies in particular are advised to be promt and when Walker, wiping the sleep from his eyes, appeared 15 minutes late, he was greeted by a number of unprintable comments, plus some undisguised laughter.
Coach Gary Green merely said, "Howie, if we miss the plane, you may have to pay to charter everybody to Washington."
The team made the plane. Walker paid anyway, although not as much. For him, it was not a weekend to remember.
The Capitals have placed right wing Dennis Ververgaert under contract and made him one of their 20 protected players for Wednesday's waiver draft. Ververgaert had been in camp on a tryout basis.
Winger Bob Sirois, who is playing in Switzerland, also was protected. Besides the 20-man list, the Capitals also has 17 exempt players. Available for selection by other NFL clubs are goalie Gary Inness, defenseman Leif Svensson and wingers Greg Polis, Tony Cassolato, Eddy Godin and Archie Henderson.