- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2001

The Washington Capitals open their exhibition season tomorrow night at MCI Center, and it appears that the game under the circumstances is meeting less than an enthusiastic response.

The Caps play host to the Philadelphia Flyers at 7 p.m. tomorrow, the makeup date after Saturday night's game was postponed because of the actions of terrorists who skyjacked four jet planes and used them as bombs to strike the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Thousands are dead or missing and hundreds more injured.

Officially, nobody knows what additional security precautions will be taken at MCI Center. The game wasn't rescheduled until Saturday night when building officials were at home. Plans for tighter security likely will be discussed and put into effect today.

"We're moving forward, security will be tighter and we'll give you more details as we move along," NHL security officials told clubs yesterday.

"I'm sure security measures will be a little more stringent. Everybody will have to be more patient with tighter security," said Caps coach Ron Wilson, indicating that beefed up security will become a fact of life throughout the United States.

Nonetheless, almost all Caps players interviewed yesterday said they were apprehensive to one degree or another with playing a game in the nation's capital so soon after the terrorist activities.

"Am I worried? Truthfully, yes," defenseman Calle Johansson said. "After everything that's happened, how could you not be worried. We're here in the nation's capital, and if you want to get attention for your cause, this is the place to get it. I know they'll make security better and do whatever is necessary, but you still think about it."

"I think everybody's at a point right now where if there's a sudden noise, you're going to be a little bit skittish," Wilson said. "But the human spirit is incredible in how you overcome tragedies like this. We trust the league that all security measures will be in place so that we all can be as safe as possible. But obviously, from what we've witnessed, nothing is totally secure."

All-Star wing Peter Bondra admitted there was some apprehension, but he looked at it as a chance for people to start putting the events of Sept. 11 behind them as much as possible.

"Maybe it's good for fans to come to the game, maybe for a second to think about something else, maybe enjoy the game a little bit instead of sitting there watching CNN and that stuff," he said. "Hopefully all of America will do that and we'll get to restore our life back and regain our confidence and security."

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't [worried], and I'm not the only one," defenseman Brendan Witt said. "We're all worried. If terrorists were going to bomb something, I'd think they'd rather pick a large building in downtown Washington, D.C. We're a huge target."

"Anything can happen going to a rink, but I'm not worried," defenseman Joe Reekie said. "The security measures in our country, especially in Washington, are safe because of what's gone on."

Privately, some team officials expressed serious concerns with the timing of the rescheduled game. They worried that one innocent movement or gesture could be misinterpreted and cause trouble with many citizens already on the edge of their seats.

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