The Washington Capitals' touring company hit the road again this morning, headed for Oulu, Finland, which is 500 miles north of Helsinki and close to the Arctic Circle.
What are the Caps doing at the Arctic Circle? Coach Gary Green thought about that one for a few seconds and, based on the team's performances in Sweden during the past week, he suggested that might be a good place to ship his team.
However, he claimed he actually booked the Caps into Oulu for a Thursday night exhibition game "because it's an excellent hockey town and they have a good hockey team."
The Caps finally looked like a good hockey team Tuesday night when they beat Djurgardens of Stockholm, 5-2, their only victory in four games in Sweden's International Preseason Tournament.
"I guess it was about time," Green said of the win. "We had a chance to use some of our kids. Some passed their test. And we learned that others are not quite at that (major league) level yet."
The coach was especially pleased with the line of center Orest Kindrachuk and Bengt-Ake Gustafsson and Roland Stoltz.
The Caps will fly back across the Atlantic Friday, arriving in New York in midafternoon. They will then head for Hershey, Pa., where they'll play the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday night.
Teams in the Swedish First Division believe in advertising. On one team, the players' helmets carry the name of a sporting goods company, the backs of the sweaters plug a credit card company and on the rear of the pants are logos for the national lottery. The name of a rental car firm on the front of the pants has been painted out, indicating the team lost that client.
Swedish rinks are 15 feet wider than the standard North American rinks. There are other differences worth noting. The linesmen, known in Sweden as "linjemen," wear helmets but the referee is bare-headed. The scoreboard clock displays the expired time in each period instead of time remaining. The fans are better behaved and some are organized into football-like cheering and singing sections. Their favorite song: "When the Saints Go Marching In."
The Caps and Rangers did a lot of lobby sitting and pacing in Sweden. In one corner of the Sheraton-Stockholm, Nick Fotiu of the Rangers was seen chatting with the Caps' Bob Kelly while Steve Baker of the Rangers was exchanging pleasantries with the Caps' Alan Hangsleben. Fotiu told Kelly that he came close to winding up with the Flyers during his free agency period last summer. Kelly, a former Flyer, grinned at the thought of Fotiu joining such Philadelphia enforcers as Paul Holmgrem, Behn Wilson and Mel Bridgman . . . Kindrachuk on the Scandinavia trip: "It seems like a long way to travel to get into condition."