When defenseman Timo Blomqvist came to North America from Finland in September 1981, it was just the beginning of his seasonal travel. So often was he shuttled between Washington and the Capitals' Hershey farm club, to the disruption of his play, that he made only one request at training camp last fall: "Just keep me in one place."
Assigned to Hershey, Blomqvist rented an apartment and prepared for a year in the minors. Before October was over, however, he was given travel orders to Washington. At the time, they were not welcome.
"The first question I asked, the same as last season, was whether I would be bouncing up and down," Blomqvist said. "I told them I'd rather just stay in Hershey. But I had a good first game and they told me if I kept on playing like that, I'd be here all year.
"Of course, I'm much happier I'm here, like anybody should be."
Blomqvist has been a plus player since that first game at St. Louis, and he enters tonight's 7:30 Capital Centre contest against Hartford with the best plus-minus rating on the Washington team, plus 19. He jumped ahead of longtime leaders Bobby Gould and Glen Currie with a plus-three effort against Boston Sunday, a performance some observers consider Blomqvist's best in the NHL.
"People came up after that game and said it was my best," Blomqvist said. "I felt good and I did think I played well. But I remember a couple of others, too. The one I liked best was when we beat the Islanders just before Christmas. That was my Christmas present, because I was plus four, and not many people ever are plus four against the Islanders.
"I watch the plus-minus ratings closely. I can't count my points, because I get so few, but I can count my pluses."
Coach Bryan Murray was one of those who felt the 22-year-old Finn reached a peak in that 6-4 victory over Boston.
"That's the best game I've seen him play," Murray said. "We had a talk before the game and he applied a little pressure to himself. He was more aggressive going after the puck. He took the man into the corner, he was involved in the play and he moved the puck very well.
"He's very strong, he's intelligent, he has a quick stride and quick hands. He has all the tools to be a better-than-average hockey player in this league. As he continues to play well, he'll get more ice time and more responsibility. The only thing he lacks is consistency, and that should come with experience . . . "
"Management tells me to be more aggressive, so I have to try," Blomqvist said. "I was an aggressive player in Europe; so much they thought I was crazy."