A hockey player's idea of Paradise would hardly consist of a sear in the Capital Centre press box and a skating season at Fort Dupont while the Washington Capitals were engaging in road battles at Denver and Toronto.
Yet that was the New Year's greeting for Bob Paradise, the forgotten man of the Capitals. Last year, despite frequent sieges of pulled groin muscles, Paradise was one of the more reliable members of the Capitals' defense corps. This season, the 32-year-old Minnesotan has not even worn a Washington jersey.
In the final period of last season's final game, at Capital Centre against Minnesota, Paradise suffered torn stomach muscles. Despite numerous consultations with physicians, including three at the Mayo Clinic, Paradise has not found permanent relief from pain.
"I was just turning in the corner," Paradise recalled that fateful game, "with my weight on my left leg. I faked left, went right and turned sharply. It's the kind of thing I'd do 15 times a night, but this time my whole stomach went sore. It was sore for seven or eight weeks."
In training camp at Dayton, Ohio, Paradise found a summer's rest and all those doctors' theories had provided no solution.
"There was no pain when I came, but then the stomach hurt as soon as I tried to skate," Paradise said. "I wanted to see if I was ready and the first time on ice I pulled it again."
Paradise rested a few days, then tried to paly in an exhibition game at Hershey, Pa. It was hopeless. For two months, he watched from the press box, hoping the healing process would take effect. Then, two weeks ago, he donned skates and took part in practice, discovering he could accomplish modified versions of coach Tom McVie's grinder without unbearable pain. Still, he cannot dispel visions of that sudden turn that will revive all that agony.
"I feel discomfort, but it's not painful like it was," Paradise said. "I feel better than throughout training camp. But it's still there and I'm kind of reluctant to open it up. I don't want to sit around five more months. I feel at this point I could play, but I'm against playing five minutes and out again. A game situation is different. Things happen quickly, you react and you can't slow down."
Still, Paradise soon must choose between that risk of further hurt and the awful feeling that he is doing nothing to earn his pay.
"It's discouraging not playing," Paradise said. "At times I'm more depressed than I've ever been in my life. There's a certain amount of self pity involved. But mainly I miss being part of thins. I've been treated well by everybody. Normally there's a lot of ribbing when you sit out like this, but I haven't observed any of that.
"When you don't contribute, though, you don't feel you really belong. As far as I'm concerned, when I came from Pittsburgh, I got those muscle pulls right off the bat and I've never really established myself here yet. It isn't the other guys. They've been great. It's the way I feel."
Paradise, obtained from Pittsburgh Nov. 26, 1975, for a No.2 draft choice, has two more years after this one on the long-range contract he negotiated with the Penguins. Some teams might just try to settle things monetarily and sent him home. There has been no such attempt here.
"There has been-no pressure on me to get back," Paradise said. "They're willing to let things clear up. Financially, there's no pressure at all. If I were on the last year of my contract, I wouldn't have much room for negotiation. But even if my contract were up, I have no thought of packing it in. I'm going to stay around until they send me home."
General manager Max McNab, one of the most understanding of men, has not voiced that possibility.
"We need all the help back there we can get," McNab said, "Sometimes these things clear up very suddenly. We're going to wait until he's ready."
"I've been very discouraged," said Paradise, still his teammate player representative. I've never had the sort of injuries that didn't heal. But it's not mysterious. I need healing time. It's just that in our game the necessary movement of the leg irritates it. Every time I extend the leg, I can feel the discomfort."
For a while longer, at least, Paradise will watch the Capitals from the press box. It's not an easy assignment, for various reasons. Early in the year, for example, the defense looked solid, with no need for a recuperating veteran. Was there any wish, possibly, that they not look quite so good?
"When I watch a game, I'm not thinking in terms of my not getting back in the lineup," Paradise said. "I've been impressed with the young guys on our defense and my philosphy has always been to stay in, not to give somebody else a chance to get my job. But I'm not concerned about that. I'll get a spot back when I'm ready to play."
Now that the defense no longer looks so solid, Capitals fans hope he is ready soon.