John Kordic is getting another chance. Mikhail Tatarinov has gotten a bigger apartment. And although Eric Lindros may not want to play in Quebec City, Kordic and Tatarinov, both former Washington Capitals, are not so averse to wearing the bleu, blanc et rouge of Les Nordiques.
The Capitals, who lost to Detroit, 5-4, Friday night at Capital Centre, will begin a three-game road trip with a visit to Le Colisee in Quebec City today for a 2:05 p.m. contest with the Nordiques.
Both Tatarinov and Kordic played only part of last season for the Capitals, but their impact seemed greater than the time they spent with the team. Tatarinov, who arrived in late October, was the first Soviet player the Capitals drafted and put in a uniform, and cultural adjustments were part of the season's experience.
Kordic's stay was even shorter, but was certainly more turbulent. He played seven games, drew 101 penalty minutes and was suspended twice and eventually released because of alcohol problems.
Kordic was acquired in January from Toronto for a fifth-round pick with Paul Fenton, who was immediately traded to Calgary for Ken Sabourin. The Capitals thought Kordic's alcohol problems were over. But after playing for a bit, he had a relapse.
There was some treatment in the Washington area, but it proved to be a patch job. Kordic failed to show up for a game and was suspended for good. The Capitals paid for his stay at a treatment center in Minneapolis and for after-care, although by then they had no plans to re-sign him. If there was any doubt, it was erased when Kordic left Minneapolis.
"I didn't want to give up my whole summer," Kordic said. He said he went to Quebec City with Bryan Foggarty, now a teammate, who also was in Minneapolis for treatment. Press reports in Quebec City had them visiting a bar there, but Kordic said they were not drinking.
The Nordiques needed muscle, so they signed Kordic, with lots of escape clauses in his contract. The deal reportedly pays him $50,000 plus per-game payments ($1,000 to $1,500) if he is able to play and then actually is in the lineup.
"I can't complain," said Kordic, who has played in nine of 14 games and has 68 penalty minutes. "I get a lot of ice time. I have a lot of rules, but that can be expected."
"I get tested every second day and I'm not allowed to go to bars," Kordic said. "It's a lot of little things."
Tatarinov said of Kordic: "John Kordic is happy -- no problem." "No problem" is one of Tatarinov's favorite English phrases. His English has improved but it remains sketchy and now he must adjust to a French-speaking city and province. But in a phone interview he said he is happy.
"I like to play in Quebec," Tatarinov said. "My wife is happy too."
Tatarinov was traded to the Nordiques on draft day, June 22, for the third pick in the second round (25th overall), which the Capitals used to take Eric Lavigne from Hull.
The trade was a shock because the Capitals had invested so much time, money and effort to get Tatarinov. He was drafted in 1984, long before Soviets were routinely coming to the NHL. There were several instances in which the Capitals created opportunities for Tatarinov to defect, although he declined them. But when Soviet teams decided to start giving up players for fees, the Capitals struck a deal with Moscow Dynamo.
When the 25-year-old defenseman arrived, Washington held a big news conference during one intermission of a game, piping it to the TelScreen at Capital Centre. They gave Tatarinov Scott Stevens' No. 3, saying it was only a coincidence, and then talked about how Tatarinov would reshape the defense.
But the adjustment was not smooth. Tatarinov was considered one of the Soviet Union's best defensemen. He was proud of his reputation and sometimes resisted changing his style. In 65 games, he had eight goals and 15 assists.
But the trade was as much about things off the ice. Players and team officials said afterward they did not think Tatarinov made enough effort to blend in with the team. In his defense, during the season his son, Vladimir, had to be checked for a heart murmur and his wife, Natasha, who had never been outside of the Soviet Union before, had homesickness problems. She still keeps in touch by phone with Peter Bondra's wife, Luba.
"Bad apartment," he said of the dwelling paid for by the Capitals. "Small."
As for the team, Tatarinov said, "No, no, good players. Good players, good coach, good organization."