NEW YORK -- The Washington Capitals walked down the middle of East 39th Street yesterday, trying to save their dress shoes and sneakers from the piles of snow that covered the sidewalks of New York.
There was no traffic following one of the biggest snowstorms here in 18 years. The city was quiet. No taxis, few buses. People walking, laughing and sliding down the middle of streets as if auditioning for a Currier and Ives print.
Neither was there a game against the New York Rangers last night. It's been postponed until Feb. 27.
But the Capitals -- 22 players, three coaches and two members of their public relations staff -- were headed for Grand Central Station and the subway to Madison Square Garden for a very hard practice.
There was one problem:
None of the Capitals knew where the subway was. No one knew where to buy a ticket.
Those who knew the most, former Rangers Mark Tinordi and Kelly Miller, eventually pooled their money and bought tokens for the team and handed them out one-by-one.
"Thanks, Dad," said coach Jim Schoenfeld, just before leading his troops toward the uptown train. Miller and Tinordi called them back. The team needed a downtown train.
"No wonder people get killed in this place," said Hunter, looking around at the gray, underground maze.
No wonder they say if you can make here, you can make it anywhere. And the Capitals did need the practice.
"If we have to stay in our rooms much longer, Calle [Johansson] and I are going to get in a fight," said team captain Dale Hunter, smiling.
"We're on the edge right now," said Johansson, Hunter's roommate.
The Capitals filled a subway car. They looked like a rowdy bunch. Keith Jones, who has been under the weather with stomach cramps, looked a wreck. Joe Juneau, coughing and sneezing, didn't look much better.
Schoenfeld said the postponement might prove to be a positive occurrence, might "give our guys a chance to heal" before facing the Ottawa Senators at USAir Arena Thursday.
One unsuspecting woman entered the Capitals' subway car. Defenseman Joe Reekie offered her his seat. She looked at his unshaven face and at his companions and declined, choosing to stand near the door.
When the Capitals emerged into Madison Square Garden, it was empty. Soft music was playing over the loudspeakers. The tune was "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" by Johnny Mathis. The Caps skated onto the ice. Everything was perfect.
"I kind of laugh at this," Juneau said of being snowed in in New York. "If I was back home right now in Quebec, this would be a normal day. But here, it's like the whole world is shut down.
"It's weird. To me, it just doesn't really make sense. As soon as it starts snowing back home, trucks are all over the road. The roads are always open."
As the snow fell through Sunday and yesterday, not all of the Capitals stayed cooped up in their rooms.
Sylvain Cote took a cab ride to the Javitts Center to take in a boat show and conjure up warm-weather thoughts. But he had to walk back in his sneakers. Tinordi and forward Ken Klee went to see the movie "12 Monkeys" (they gave it thumbs down).
Klee enjoyed his stay in another way, having picked up several hundred dollars of "walking-around money" by beating his teammates at a card game called "Snarples."
"All I'll say is we don't have some of the smartest card players on this team," he said.
When the Capitals emerged from the Garden after practice, snow was still flying and the temperature was hovering near 18 degrees.
"This would be a heat wave in Winnipeg," said goalie Olie Kolzig.
"It's T-shirts and shorts in Saskatchewan," said center Kevin Kaminski.
And those two either had had enough of the New York subway or believed what they said, choosing to walk the 1 1/2 miles back to the hotel through the cold, blowing snow.
NOTES: The Capitals hoped to head home by train this afternoon and have a short skate at Piney Orchard Ice Rink. . . . Kelly Miller said his groin muscle is still bothering him, but figures he will simply have to play the season with some discomfort. . . . Stefan Ustrof (hamstring) thought he might skate yesterday, but didn't; neither did Keith Jones. . . . Craig Berube, who was to serve the 10th game of his suspension last night, will now serve it against Ottawa Thursday. . . . Jason Allison, who was called up from Portland of the AHL Saturday night, made it here yesterday morning.