Washington hockey fans who have not yet seen Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky in the flesh at Capital Centre probably will have no opportunity in the future, barring purchase of a season ticket to Washington Capitals home games.
Lew Strudler, the Capitals' marketing director, said yesterday there would be no public sale of tickets either for the Edmonton game Feb. 8 or the first seasonal visit by the Philadelphia Flyers Jan. 18.
All 18,130 seats have been committed to the 7,000 season ticket holders and 6,500 purchasers of partial plans, who are given the privilege of purchasing tickets to individual games before they go on public sale.
This is the first time in the 12-year history of the franchise that a game has been sold out without public sale. Such a situation was envisioned for last spring's playoffs, but demand subsided with the Capitals' late-season slide.
"We expect season and partial sales to increase, so this is a situation that should occur more frequently," Strudler said. "It's a big step forward for the franchise to be able to sell out a game with the Flyers in advance without selling any to Philadelphia fans."
There are tickets available for Wednesday afternoon's game against the New York Rangers, who beat the Capitals, 6-5, in a controversial game Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
Referee Bob Myers did not endear himself to Washington management, players or fans with his performances during the 7-4 loss to Chicago here Saturday or the 6-5 defeat by the Rangers.
During Saturday's game, Myers declined to call some fouls that seemd obvious to the Capitals, including Jerome Dupont's spear that left Washington's Gaetan Duchesne in agony on the ice.
The principal complaint with Myers' work Sunday centered around an apparent excess of calls.
The Capitals had a 3-0 lead early in the second period when Washington's Rod Langway became entangled with Bob Brooke. After play was halted and Langway (penalized for interference, players of both teams bumped together in typical postwhistle name-calling. When it was over, Capitals Kevin Hatcher and Greg Adams joined Langway in the box, while Brooke received a single minor penalty.
The Rangers quickly scored on the two-man advantage and added another before the teams were at equal strength. Later in the period, they scored on three straight shots for a 5-3 lead.
On the tying goal, Washington goalie Pete Peeters seemingly had the puck frozen, but Myers did not stop play and Ranger Mike Ridley whacked the puck loose and into the net. New York went ahead to stay on a third power-play score, after Washington's Mike Gartner was assessed a holding penalty.
After viewing videotapes of the game, Capitals Coach Bryan Murray yesterday claimed to be baffled by the three-on-one penalty call and the penalty against Gartner.
"I still haven't seen where Kevin Hatcher got a penalty," Murray said. " . . . Greg Adams did push at Brooke, but it hardly was anything to warrant a penalty.
"The other call I questioned was the penalty to Mike Gartner in the neutral zone. Mike lost the puck and there was contact, but it hardly amounted to anything and it didn't make sense to call it right after Alan Haworth was tackled in the corner without any call."
During the postgame interview over TelScreen Saturday, Hatcher called Myers "the worst official in the league." John McCauley, the NHL's assistant director of officiating, said yesterday from Rexdale, Ontario, "all officials get complaints but to say that he is the worst, that is not something we would agree with."
Asked whether he felt Myers might have learned of Hatcher's comment and reacted to it with his calls Sunday, Murray answered with a flat "No." "I'd hate to believe somebody who's been around the legue as long as Bob Myers would take what a young hockey player says and do something about it," Murray said. "I know he wouldn't."
Still, Murray felt that assigning Myers to the back-to-back games was a mistake. Each NHL referee is scheduled for four games in each building, but there is no provision to prevent him from catching a team 20 times on the road.
McCauley said the league tries to avoid back-to-back assignments such as Myers' but said it was caused by "an injury (to an official) that forced some 30-odd changes."
"It made for a very difficult situation for the players and the official," Murray said. "After the first game, especially if a team loses and disagrees with the calls, the referee has to regain the players' confidence. If there is an apparent bad call the next night, the players react with the feeling that 'here we go again.'
"We lost our cool Sunday as far as defending and staying in control on the ice. I don't think much was said, but quite possibly the players got to thinking, 'Here we go again,' and the result was demoralizing." Kings 4, Jets 2: Dave (Tiger) Williams scored two goals within a 40-second span of the first period as Los Angeles won in Inglewood, Calif.