Rounding the rink for the last time, Adam Oates came to a halt, turning up small flakes of ice with the sharp edge of his skates. He gave a deep sigh and headed across the ice to the locker room.

            “Hey Oatsie!”

            He lifted his head to see the Capital's goalie, Olaf Kolzig, heading in the front door to the small arena. Olie was an attractive man, with a young face and a mature goatee-clad look. Adam held a thick, gloved hand up and smiled as he continued to skate towards the door. Quickly, he lowered his hand and put it to his nose. “Hehtchh!” he sneezed toward his glove and gave a sniff. Looking up, he saw Olie just disappearing into the locker room. With a smile, glad he hadn't been seen, he entered in as well.

            The star goalie was suiting up, and cast a look up at his team's captain. “You sure you want to dress down just yet? Kenny Klee and Halp are coming in to shoot a few with me. You're welcome to join us.”

            With a shake of his head, “Nah, I got an hour of play. I want to stay fresh for the big game tonight.” He froze a moment, his nose twitching just slightly. This time he was gloveless and raised a full fist. “Heketch! Huftch!

            “Bless you. That makes the sneeze count three since I've been here, hmm?”

            Adam simply shrugged. “You know how cold open ice can be in the morning.”

            “Sure.” He paused a moment to strap on his large face mask, though just an ordinary practice one that paled in comparison on the artistic one he made a statement with during games. “I also know how many sneezes Kono and Gonchi were racking up last week.” He spoke of two other Capitals teammates who'd had rather heavy head colds the week before. Olie failed to mention that he, himself, wasn't feeling too hot.

            Adam shook his head again. “I'm fine. I'll see you tonight, though!” With a pat on the top of the man's helmet, he headed out of the locker room and the practice arena and headed back home.




            Adam Oates arrived early to warm-ups at the MCI Center. Nikolishen was playing Ulf Dahlin at the team's ping pong table. It had been a few years since the table had turned up in their locker room, but nearly everyone on the team could count it as valuable an addition as the new physical therapy hot tubs. From the look of concentration on Ulfy's face, one could guess that Niko was close to winning this particular game.

            “Hey guys,” he greeted them lightly as he made his way past, not wanting to draw much attention to himself or to disrupt their game in any way.

            “You want to play the winner, Oatsie?” Ulf asked in his thick Sweedish tongue.

            Adam nodded. “Sure. Lemmie drop my bag off at my locker and I'll be back.”