Milan Novy of the Washington Capitals admitted yesterday he knows precious little about this team of his. "Almost nothing," he said through an interpreter.
No matter. Novy, a darling of Czechoslovakian hockey, wants to make sure the rest of the NHL hears from the Capitals. "I am very happy to be able to play for your club," he said in halting English. "I hope to reach the Stanley Cup final round."
Novy's work awaits him. As every Capitals diehard knows, Washington has never reached the Stanley Cup's first round. But at yesterday's introductory press conference, Novy seemed confident and calm.
"Milan Novy is a hockey player," said David Poile, newly named general manager. "I think that's all we need to know."
Poile may have understated the case. Novy, a center who was drafted and signed by the Capitals last June, represents a step toward credibility for the struggling franchise. He has been playing international hockey to rave reviews for many of his 30 years. He comes to the U.S. with the blessing of the Czech hockey federation.
In 1980, he was voted Czechoslovakia's No. 2 player of the year. Peter Stastny came in first. The following year, when Stastny and his brother Anton defected to play in the NHL, Novy won top honors.
Because the Czech National League (almost the equivalent of the NHL) doesn't keep the most detailed records, no one is exactly sure just how many goals Novy has scored. According to the Capitals statisticians, Novy spent as many as 14 years playing for Poldi Kladno, led the league in scoring five times and totaled more than 400 goals.
"He is the guy," Roger Crozier, recently ousted as the team's acting general manager, said at his home yesterday. "Better than the Stastnys."
Crozier arranged to bring Novy to Washington and negotiated his contract, a one-year deal in the $110,000 range, with options for renewal based on performance.
Novy played in Canada Cup tournaments last year and in 1976. He skated in the 1976 Olympics as top goal scorer, and in 1980 was his silver-medal-winning team's high point man (seven goals and eight assists in six games).
He has played on the Czech national team, twice taking his team to a World Ice Hockey Championship.
And because he has played in the U.S. and Canada so often, says Novy, and has "succeeded each time, there is no problem in the future." He means that he anticipates no problem in adjusting to the NHL's more physically abusing style.
Wearing a three-piece suit, Novy soberly but eagerly fielded questions with the help of his interpreter.
How many goals will he score for Washington? "The most." His reaction to being chosen by the Capitals was "very happy . . . I want to play in the NHL."
He is also pleased that his wife Ivana, son Milan Jr. and daughter Klara are here with him. No one tried to prevent their moving to Washington, he said. "The Czech hockey federation said go, if you can."
Novy and his wife are learning English together, working at it at least an hour each day. "No teacher. They have a very good book to study," said the interpreter. Novy hopes to be at ease with the language within a month or two.
His box office appeal became evident yesterday. The Czechoslovakian embassy wants Capitals season tickets.
How will Novy fit into the team's game plan? "He'll just come right in and start playing hockey," Poile said. "That's all he has to do."