"Look, I could have said, Yes, I'll go if you give me this, this, this," says Clark, who did not ask to renegotiate his $800,000 salary even though it is substantially below market value. "I could have made it tough on the G.M., but that would have been rocking the boat with the team, rocking the boat in the province. So what if it's French? You don't hate anyone because of their culture."
Clark mastered the Gallic shrug before the rest of the language, although he did study French in school. "I passed," Clark says. ("A's and B's," remembers Emile Lalonde, who taught him in grades 7 and 8 at Kelvington High School.) When someone doesn't understand his rare stabs at French, he says it's O.K., no one understood his English until the 12th grade.
"He'll give you the simple farm boy stuff, but Wendel's incredibly bright—not that he wants you to know it," says Gord Miller, a friend who is a commentator for The Sports Network in Toronto. "Nothing gets by him. He knows what everybody in the league is making. He walks into a room and sizes up situations immediately. He'll hate this, but his favorite TV program is Matlock."
Clark can still watch Matlock. Quebec has cable television, a capable coach and four swarming lines. If Lacroix lands a defenseman to quarterback the power play and the 24-year-old Fiset continues to develop into a premier goalie, the Nordiques could start winning as many big ones as Clark's favorite smarter-than-you-think TV lawyer. "The transition has been easy for me, but winning always makes everything easier," Clark says. "I do miss some friends and some of the conveniences I had in Toronto, but now I wake up and think, Hey, I can do something new today." Clark took in some of Quebec's renowned winter carnival earlier this month, particularly admiring the ice sculpture outside the wall of the Old City. Of course, it was a drive-by sighting.
"Forty below," Clark reported. "I wasn't about to get out of my truck." This is one bright man.