Sunday, October 25, 2009
Maple Leaf favorite Wendel Clark was born on this date in 1966. If you are not familiar with Clark, we urge you to watch today's first video clip to truly understand the type of player he was, as just statistical numbers don't capture the spirit of a player like Clark.
Clark was drafted first overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft and made his debut for the Maple Leafs later that year. He actually played defense in junior hockey, but was converted to a forward by the Maple Leafs, a club he would return to again and again during his career.
A true heart and soul player, Clark became a highly popular player with the Toronto faithful for putting everything he had in to every shift, every game. Plus, he sported one of the top, and underrated, mullets in hockey history. Yes, better than Jaromir Jagr and his cousin Barry Melrose, Clark rocked the hockey hair in 1996 like few others before or since, not to mention the classic mustache.
From the documentary, "Mario, Mike and the Great Gretzky" about Team Canada and the 1987 Canada Cup.
While it may lack the sheer volume of the Jagr or the overexposure of the Melrose, the ratio of the shortness of the buzz cut on top to the length of the "mud flap" out back ranks it among the greatest mullets in NHL history.
Clark would announce his presence in the league with 227 penalty minutes in during his rookie season in addition to his 34 goals. He would raise his reputation the following year by increasing both totals with 37 goals and 271 penalty minuets.
A back injury suffered during his third season after being cross-checked into the crossbar would limit him to 28 games in his third season and his physical style would take its toll and Clark would see the ice in just 15 games during his fourth and 38 in the fifth.
His games played would increase over the next four seasons of 1990-91 to 1993-94, but he would still average just under 60 games with 59 per season during that time period. After campaigns of 18, 19 and 17 goals, he would explode for a career high with 46 in 64 games of the 1993-94 season. He was named team captain in 1991-92 and the Maple Leafs would make it as far as the conference finals in 1992-93, scoring a hat trick in Game 6 as part of his 20 points in 21 playoff games that season.
The summer after his 46 goal season he was traded to the Quebec Nordiques in a deal which brought Mats Sundin to Toronto. He would begin to frequently move teams for the remainder of his career, being traded by the Nordiques to the New York Islanders and then finishing the season back in Toronto. Two more seasons in Toronto, of 65 and 47 games, would be followed by a stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning followed by heading to the Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline in a season in which he managed 77 games, easily his highest total in 12 years.
He would begin his final NHL season with the Chicago Blackhawks, but once more return to the Maple Leafs to finish out his career, where the Leafs would honor his #17 on November 22, 2008.
His final career totals are 793 games played (an average of just 53 per season) 330 goals, 234 assists, 564 points and 1690 penalty minutes.
Today's featured jersey is a 1986-87 Toronto Maple Leafs Wendel Clark jersey. Or is it a 1990-91 jersey?
Truth be told, it was originally created as a 1986-87 jersey with the King Clancy memorial patch on the left sleeve, one of the more unique and colorful memorial patches ever, but we were later able to obtain the Harold Ballard memorial patch worn on the right chest in 1990-91 on the exact same style jersey. Rather than shell out the money for an identical jersey to one already owned, the decision was made to create a hybrid jersey and add the Ballard patch on the opposite side of the Clancy patch with the knowledge that it can be removed at a later date if necessary.
Aside of the inconsistency of having patches from two different seasons on the one jersey, the other key feature of this jersey is the unusual treatment of the assistant captain's "A" on the front as worn by the Maple Leafs during this time period prior to Clark being named team captain.
Normally we go into this part of each post just hoping to find some relevant video of an NHL player or perhaps something, anything, on an obscure European player, but not today. Oh, no. Clark was so popular in Toronto, and had we had an embarrassment of riches to choose from.
Without further delay, strap on your helmet for the best of Wendel Clark!
Hell yea! Now that was some Old Time Hockey!
Here is a profile of Clark which looks back on his rookie season.
In advance of his number being honored, Clark revisits Maple Leaf Gardens and recounts some of his favorite memories as a Maple Leaf in a very well done piece.
Next is the ceremony where the Maple Leafs honored Clark's #17 in 2008.
Finally, here is Clark's first game back in Toronto to begin his second stint with the Leafs. Feel the love people, feel the love...