This morning I thought it would be appropriate to tell my son N8 some stories about my favourite hockey player of all time, Wendel Clark. Truth be told I lobbied the First Lady quite hard to name N8 Wendel or even Clark. Ultimately I was foiled in my attempts as the First Lady feared our son would be linked to Clark Griswold of National Lampoon fame.
Wendel Clark came around at a time when I was totally submerging myself into everything that was the hockey. My first memory of Wendel was when he played on the 1985 World Junior Squad that represented Canada in Helsinki. I can remember my Mom waking me from a deep slumber at 4:00 am to watch Team Canada play the Czechs. Clark played defence at that and sported long cooperalls. I can remember vividly him laying out a Czech player with a clean hit at center ice. Right then and there I became a devoted Wendel Clark fan.
When Clark got drafted by the Leafs in 1985 I was ecstatic. I had already bucked the family trend of cheering for the Montreal Canadiens by that point, but that was by cheering for such luminary scuds like Miroslav Frycer, Bill Derlago and “Tricky” Ricky Vaive. None of these players were horrible by any means but I couldn’t imagine myself trying to emulate them. By watching Clark put on the blue and white that would all change. I spent my whole hockey playing career trying to pattern my game after his. Wendel had hands to score and fight, the heart to lead and the strength to deliver a timely hit. He was a true leader and captain. It’s unfortunate that his style of play led to his early retirement at the age of 33.
Ask any Maple Leaf to list their top five memories of the past 20 years, and every single one will include the Clark-McSorley fight from the 1993 playoffs. Even non-Leaf fans know the scene by heart: Clark looking over his shoulder at a fallen Doug Gilmour, then without hesitation dropping his gloves and heading directly for the twice-his-size McSorley and rocking him with a right handed haymaker. This instance again proved the type of leader and teamate he was.
I’m excited to see Wendel Clark get his much due recognition tonight from the Toronto faithful. I have no doubts that I’ll have that feeling like a little boy feeling while I’m doing it. Someday I’ll tell N8 the Wendel stories again. I’ll also share Howard Berger’s article on tonights festivities with him.