Remembering the Departed Caps

Posted May 29, 2014

(Photos courtesy Washington Capitals)

Memorial Day is a time to reflect on those that served and died for our country. While their sacrifice is unmatched and incomparable, contemplating those that lived and died before us often extends beyond those soldiers we honored on Monday. An unpleasant but all too absolute reality, the passing of loved ones leaves families and friends to cope with the loss. The Washington Capitals family is no exception to this rule. A little research reveals that more than a few former Caps have moved on from this life, leaving legacies behind.

Arguably, the most recognizable of these players is Gaetan Duchesne. Duchesne played six seasons with the Caps from 1981 to 1987. In his best season with the team, he had 18 goals and 19 assists for 37 points on the season. While playing for the North Stars, he helped them to their improbable Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1991. Duchesne, though a forward, was well known for his defensive playing style. Then coach Bryan Murray described him as “outstanding” in 1982, though the Quebec had spent only one year in the league – and the country. A health and fitness enthusiast, “Gator” died in his Quebec City after suffering a heart attack at the gym in 2007. He was 44.

John Kordic, another recognizable name, carved his legacy with punches. Kordic played less than one season with the Caps, but managed to rack up 101 PIMs in seven games. At 6’2″ and 210 lbs., he was a born fighter. Though sometimes flaunting his fists for the crowd, especially during this fight against Gord Donnelly while with the Canadiens, Kordic struggled with his role as an enforcer due to his parents’ dissent. Troubled, Kordic turned to drugs and alcohol, which eventually led to his death in 1992.

Garnet “Ace” Bailey, a Capital from 1974 to 1977, was a four-time Stanley Cup winner as a player. When he joined the Capitals, he was in the middle of one of his best seasons. The Caps, at the time, were the worst team in the league. Already in the league for six years, veteran Bailey helped the young Caps more than double their win total in with less than a third of the season to go. After playing with the Caps, his last NHL team, he became a scout for the Oilers and Kings. Ace passed while on board United Airlines Flight 175, when it crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. His legacy lives through the Kings mascot, named Bailey in his honor, and the Ace Bailey Children’s Foundation, started by his family.

Other players who spent part of their career and lives with the Capitals include Peter ZezelPeter Laframboise, Doug Mohns, Paul Nicholson, Wayne Stephenson, Tom Williams, and Robert Muller – who the Capitals drafted, but never played.

These players, though no longer part of the physical world, still live in spirit. Fans remember their names, players emulate their example and the Capitals family never forgets.

Editors’ Note: This post was updated.