The hardest hit Gord Kluzak of the Boston Bruins may take all season came from a cabdriver. It was a slam to the ego, a clean shot, innocently brutal, yet humorous. As a taxi carrying Kluzak and teammates Bill O'Dwyer and Randy Burridge pulled away from Quebec City's Le Colis�e, the driver looked at his front-seat passenger, Kluzak. " Boston Bruin?" the cabbie asked.
"Yup," said Kluzak.
"I know all the Bruins, but not you," said the cabbie. In the back seat O'Dwyer and Burridge were smirking.
"I'm Gord Kluzak."
"You don't play much," the driver said. O'Dwyer and Burridge were laughing aloud now.
"Like not at all," said Kluzak quietly.
"Like zippo," said O'Dwyer, wiping tears from his eyes. The driver said nothing. Kluzak glanced at his friends. For a second he looked confused. Or hurt. Then he doubled over, laughing at himself.
"Gordie's in a good mood," said Bruins coach Terry O'Reilly of his returning star. "He ought to be, he just got out of purgatory."
Purgatory? Heavens to arthroscopy. Kluzak just skated out of a personal hell. For two of the last three seasons, he has struggled to rehabilitate his bent, folded and spindled left knee, wondering if he would ever play again and fighting to restore a sense of self-esteem that was almost as badly damaged as his body.
Now, following strong showings in five of Boston's first six games (he sat one out because of soreness in the knee), Kluzak has risen from hell to limbo. Considering what the 23-year-old defenseman has suffered since being drafted No. 1 overall in 1982, limbo is great. Heaven can wait. And so can the Bruins, but not much longer. They have been broomed out of the playoffs in the first round four years in a row, partly because Ray Bourque, the backbone of their defense, is so overworked in the regular season that, come April, he is running on near-empty. "More work for Gordie means less for me, and less for me might mean more to the team," says Bourque.