Capital Centre it isn't. Video games and candy bar machines fill the concrete-block lobby of the Twin Ice Rinks. Recipe cards advertising used hockey equipment, yard sales and poodles hang on the cork bulletin board.
It is dim inside, and there isn't a hint of the hot July night. The temperature near the ice is in the 40s and the 20 people seated in the small, wooden bleachers have on their fall coats.
By NHL standards, it isn't much, but to Washington Capitals forward Bobby Carpenter, it's home. He has been coming here from his home in nearby South Peabody for 10 years. In the winter. In the fall. In the spring. Even in the summer.
This hot evening, others his age head past the Twin Rinks, which is on Rte. 114, 20 miles north of Boston, returning from a day at the beach. Carpenter is here, under the dim lights and in the cold, doing what he did every day when he was a kid--playing hockey with his buddies.
He is participating in one of about 20 games he'll play in the Danvers College Hockey League, a summer gathering of past and present college players and Carpenter, who went straight from high school to the big time.
"I've always played summer hockey." Carpenter said. "Hockey has always been a four-season sport for me. It keeps up your timing and helps you stay sharp. And I've played with most of these guys since I was little."
He's one of the younger players in the 24-team league. At 20, he's two years out of Danvers' St. John's Prep School. But in the first few minutes of warmups, you can tell which player on the Gregory's Deli team is making the big money in the NHL.
That's him--the one whose 40-foot wrist shot catches the corner of the net while he's looking over his shoulder at something on the other end of the ice. The one who swaggers across the ice and smoothly switches speeds. The one who moves the puck from forehand to backhand and back again as if he were handling a yo-yo.
He doesn't need to be here, playing against skaters from colleges such as Babson, Bowdoin and Southeastern Massachusetts. After two years with the Capitals, Carpenter has started to show why he was the third pick overall in the 1981 draft, the first American ever picked so high.
What other player at the Twin Rinks this night can say he's flying to Washington in the morning to check on his house and "a few other little things?"
Before the game, he leans over the boards and jokes with some local fans who have watched him grow up on this piece of ice. He jokes with the opposing team. He kids his teammates, calling them locker room names. They return the names and toss tape balls at him.
"It's not that surprising that he still plays here," says Gregory's coach, Pete Doherty. "That's just the way he is. He's a good kid. He'd played here nine years before he went to Washington. He hasn't changed much."
"I look forward to playing here. It comes at the perfect time," Carpenter said. "You have about a month and a half off after the season and you're not doing anything. School hasn't started in the summer yet, so I get some time to relax. Then I start looking for something to do and then this starts up. It's something to do and it's fun."
He attends a computer class at Salem State every weekday morning, runs and lifts weights after that, plays golf or sleeps in the afternoon and plays a little hockey and basketball at night. He still lives with his parents during the off-season.
"It's nice to get back home," he said. " If I stayed down in Washington, I wouldn't know too many people. Everyone on the team leaves after the season is over."
On this night against Ipswich, he doesn't stick out as much as he did in warmups. It's not much of a game, really. By the end, Gregory's will have its 10th victory in 11 games this summer, a 16-1 decision. Carpenter spends these two hours cruising up and down his wing. He skates only three shifts a period and, when he gets the puck, quickly looks for a teammate to shove it to.
But when an Ipswich defender falls down in the first period, leaving the puck in front of the net, Carpenter's casual approach disappears and he is on the puck quickly. One quick step and the puck is on his backhand. Another stride and the puck is on its way past the goalie for a 5-0 lead.
"That's what's nice about this," he said. " . . . It doesn't matter what you do out here. Nothing matters. Of course, you want to win, but nobody remembers from year to year who won the league."
Still, just for the record, Carpenter and his teammates have won the league championship three of the past four years.
Late in the second period, an Ipswich player comes up behind Carpenter and gives him a crosscheck and shove. Carpenter whirls, gives him a jab back with his stick and shoves the college boy to the ice. Carpenter comes off the ice, grinning.
"You get that much?" someone asks. "These college guys taking runs at the NHL star?"
"Nah, not much," Carpenter says.
Then, he reconsiders. "Well, you get some. But you know who they are and what they'll do. You just stick 'em. They won't come back. I learned that. They'll learn, too."