Caps can't score on the ice or on signing front

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Targets of Opportunity:

The Washington Capitals cannot score goals. It has been that way for a long time. A big offensive display for them is when they light the goal lamp and get a 1-1 tie as they did in Boston Saturday afternoon.

So, while perennial 40-goal man Luc Robataille was scooped up by conference foe Pittsburgh during the off-season and the Canadiens, another Eastern Conference playmate, latched onto the Flyers top scorer Mark Recchi late last week, the Caps dumped winger Randy Burridge.

You might recall Burridge'soming to the team three years ago as a guy who could help out in the scoring department. His first year, he had 23 goals and 67 points in 66 games and was top point man on the club when felled by injury. He had 25 goals last winter. As coach Jim Schoenfeld puts it, "Randy's attitude is fantastic, his work ethic second to none."

These things must have worked against Burridge, because all the Caps got for sending him to Los Angeles is a fourth-round draft choice either this year or in 1997 from Toronto. This is one of those deals involving a trip around Cape Horn. The Caps, 2-6-2 and currently riding 12th in their 14-team conference, are on another youth kick, which is another way of saying dumping salaries, and Burridge turned 29 a month ago.

* Television is wonderful. Absolutely nothing that happens under the ever-broadening tent of sports goes unnoticed. NBA player Vernon Maxwell takes umbrage with what some dysfunctional is screaming at him during the game and he charges up into the stands to deliver a fist sandwich to the guy. No doubt because the incident was seen by everyone but Tibetan monks, Maxwell gets a suspension and stiff fine.

Incidents like this are hardly new, but there was a time when XTC they went largely unnoticed. Jimmy Connors was in town playing Team Tennis (mid-'70s) and the Banners were in Philadelphia taking on Billie Jean King's Freedoms one night. Fans are toughest in Philly, by at least 200 percent.

Three of the city's finest hecklers were giving it to Jimbo unmercifully when he decided he had enough. They were seated in about the 10th row and Connors got to the seventh before he was halted. They were three large individuals, each having about 50 pounds on the player.

Asked how he planned the attack against the behemoths, still brandishing his Wilson T-200 racket, Connors replied, "I'd get one with the forehand, one with the backhand and the third guy would then beat the [ahem] out of me." Caught on tape these days, the action would have probably won an ESPY tomorrow night.

* After a hefty increase in ticket prices last year, the Washington Bullets doubled back and did it again over the weekend, laying "moderate $2 and $3 increases for most ticket levels available to the public." This means a really good seat at USAir Arena will have risen $10 over the last three years. Must be the snappy 143-312 record the club has run up in the '90s, right?

For some reason, clubs always feel compelled to forward explanations for their moves accompanied by statistics citing how their prices are in the "lower third of the league," as is the case with the Bullets.

Actually, the only explanation needed is that the club can command these prices. The 11-34 team is currently averaging 17,154 fans per game and there have been 15 sellouts among the 21 home games.

Business is business, gang. If a team can boost its average ticket price up past $28 and still have people pushing over the turnstiles, it has some moral obligation not to? The average ticket price to a New York Knicks game is $43.

* "Atlantic 10 adds three more," the headline said, La Salle, Dayton and Virginia Tech joining the basketball league, which added Xavier and Fordham this year. West Virginia and Rutgers skipped the A-10 as did Penn State a while back.

It cost the Metro Conference $1,135,000 to get rid of Virginia Commonwealth, which now joins the Colonial Athletic Conference. And the Metro-Great Midwest merger left Dayton high and dry. The ultimate independent Notre Dame was forced to join Big East hoops in order to maintain a Division I-A schedule.

Same thing in football. You're nothing these days unless you have 12 schools in two divisions with a playoff and are part of the Bowl Coalition. All this is driven by money, of course, or television (and tournament) money to be specific. It's sad.

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