It's been nearly four months since a 17-year-old Fairfax, Va., girl accused four members of the Washington Capitals of sexual assault in the back of a limousine outside of a bar in Georgetown.
Six weeks after the initial media blitz on the four suspects -- Scott Stevens, Geoff Courtnall, Dino Ciccarelli and Neil Sheehy -- a grand jury decided not to pursue the case.
There was no prosecution, no trial, no jury, no case.
But unlike Stevens and Courtnall, who have moved on to the St. Louis Blues, Sheehy and Ciccarelli might be forced to face a different kind of trial. They'll have to deal with the local fans, who might harbor opinions of their own and express them when the players take the ice.
"People are going to believe what they want to believe," said Sheehy, who wasn't selected to dress for tonight's first exhibition game of the season against the New York Rangers at the Baltimore Arena. "We've been through so much already. It's really a non-issue."
Ciccarelli, who will play his first game before a home crowd tonight, agreed.
"When I'm out on the ice I can't be worried about what the fans are thinking," Ciccarelli said. "I've got a job to do and that's scoring goals."
Ciccarelli has taken several hours over the summer addressing letters and returning phone calls the Caps have received about the incident.
"Dino has shown a lot of character responding to the fans and answering to the press," said coach Terry Murray. "He has said 'I'm sorry,' and beyond that, there's not much more he can do but play well."
But what kind of response is expected tonight at the Arena or when the team takes the ice at Cap Centre for the opener on Oct. 6?
"There's no question that some people [fans] are a little disappointed," said right wing Steve Leach, who dated the girl involved in the incident. "There will probably be some boos. As a team we stuck together through it all. But it's over with and now it's time to play hockey."
Sheehy said he knows what people are thinking but hopes fans '' take the grand jury's findings into consideration.
"The grand jury didn't decide whether we were innocent or guilty but whether there was a case at all," Sheehy said. "And there wasn't."
Tonight's game is the first of three in a row this weekend that will take the team to Albany, N.Y., tomorrow to face the Rangers again and to Norfolk, Va., Sunday to meet the Hartford Whalers.
For tonight's game, Murray has split the roster between Caps veterans and several Skipjacks, who might be considered hopefuls to make the NHL roster in October.
Mike Liut is scheduled to start in goal tonight, while Jim Hrivnak is expected to finish the game.
Four Skipjacks -- Chris Felix, Mark Ferner, Kent Paynter and Bobby Babcock -- will join Rod Langway and Bob Rouse on defense.
Kelly Miller, Alan May, Mike Ridley, Steve Maltais, John Druce, Ciccarelli, Rob Murray, Bob Joyce, Dale Hunter, Steve Seftel, John Purves and Alfie Turcotte also will skate for the Caps.
The Rangers also will dress a mix of NHL and AHL players, but Mike Gartner, Bernie Nicholls and Brian Leetch already have been named to start.
* There is still no movement in the talks to get goalie Don Beauprand defenseman Kevin Hatcher into camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. General manager David Poile is speaking with Beaupre's agent Ron Simon, but not with Ron Salcer, who represents Hatcher.
Hatcher still has three years remaining on his contract, but is dissatisfied with the terms.