Randy Burridge gained control of the puck, skated in and fli
ODENTON, Md. (AP) _ Randy Burridge gained control of the puck, skated in and flipped a shot into the net past fallen goalie Olaf Kolzig.
``Two-line pass!″ someone shouted from the other side of the blue line. ``No goal!″
No NHL player, for that matter, has scored a goal that counted since commissioner Gary Bettman initiated a lockout three months ago. The league’s owners are planning to vote Saturday on the union’s latest proposal, and a rejection could spell the end of the entire season.
If the season finally does get underway, the Washington Capitals intend to be ready to go by the suggested start-up date of Jan. 16. For the past 12 weeks, many of the players have been paying to skate at the team’s practice arena.
``We’re renting the ice. We were skating three times a week, but the last couple of weeks we’ve been out here every day,″ said Pat Peake, one of 12 players who participated in an informal scrimmage Thursday.
No coaches or officials were present. Just a dozen guys who hope to soon be playing for real.
``I just hope their enthusiasm is warranted,″ coach Jim Schoenfeld said. ``We’ve been up and down with this thing, and until it’s finally resolved I’m not going to be doing any cartwheels.″
Schoenfeld has adhered to rules forbidding him from working with the team, although he has maintained constant contact with all his players. On the wall of his office is a practice schedule from next Monday through Jan. 16.
Washington left wing Todd Krygier expects to participate in an honest-to-goodness real practice next week, because he is confident that the union has put together a package that the league’s owners will accept.
``That’s our last proposal and it’s our best offer,″ he said. ``I’m pretty sure the owners won’t turn it down and that we’re going to start playing. We’ve made some tremendous concessions.″
Over the past three months, Krygier found time to be the best man at a wedding and see his family during the holidays.
``We all got to do some things that we couldn’t do while we were playing, and things that we probably won’t be able to do again until our careers are over,″ he said.
Schoenfeld has taken the time off to work on this golf game. But given an option, he’d much rather be whipping the Capitals into playoff form.
``It’s tough on everyone concerned _ the players, coaches, management, the fans, the vendors ... It’s a difficult situation, there’s no denying that,″ he said. ``We hope it gets resolved, but no one knows for sure what’s going to happen.″
The Capitals say they will benefit financially if the season never gets underway. Ed Quinlan, the team’s vice president of communications, said the franchise lost $8 million last season and will actually lose less money if the season is cancelled because of the money saved in salary payouts.
``We’d love to see hockey played this season, but you have to look at things in terms of where the league is going,″ Quinlan said. ``Under the present collective bargaining agreement, I don’t see how we can stem our losses. Sixty percent of the all expenses go to player payroll, and salaries keep going up.″
Still, he said the NHL would benefit by at least playing a partial season.
``We need to regain our fan and sponsorship base,″ Quinlan said. ``We’re not likely to build on it, but if we don’t play hockey this season it will be hard to hold onto fans and sponsors, some of whom have been faithful to the game for a long time.″
Season-ticket holders have been offered a series of options, including a refund, for money spent on games that have already been cancelled. Ticket-holders can use the money toward this season’s playoff games, next season’s tickets or even seats at a Washington Bullets NBA game.
Quinlan said 30 percent of the ticket-holders requested refunds.