Wendel Clark was honoured by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, not because he won multiple Stanley Cups, or had a Hall of Fame type career. Nope, Wendel was honoured because of the way he played the game.
November 24, 2008
If there was ever a guy who played hockey "the right way," it was Clark. It's probably the ultimate sports cliche, but Wendel left everything out on the ice, every single time he stepped on it.
No matter how bad some of those Toronto Maple Leafs teams were back in the day - and some of them were really, really bad - Clark played every game as if it were game seven of the Stanley Cup finals; as if it were his last.
Patrick Roy was also honoured on Saturday night. By Montreal, and rightfully so. He had one hell of a career. Arguably the greatest goalie to ever play the game. Quite the resume: four Stanley Cups, three Conn Smythe trophies, and three Vezina trophies.
But you know how I'll remember him? As a douchebag, for pulling that shit in Montreal back on December 2nd, 1995. You remember, don't you? That fateful night, when he was absolutely pounded by the Detroit Red Wings; when his career with the Habs came to a crashing halt.
Patrick Roy. What a drama queen. What a diva. What a quitter. Roy actually had the nerve, right after he was yanked from the game and still on the bench, to walk up to the team president of les Canadiens and say that he'd never again play for le bleu, blanc et rouge. It still amazes me. And all because his personal pride took a little bit of a spanking.
Poor guy, that Roy. Somebody pass me the Kleenex.
You know what else I'll remember about St. Patrick? His decision to not play for Team Canada at the 2002 Olympics. You know, because he wasn't handed the starting goaltending job, on a silver fucking platter, from the get go.
Classy guy, that Roy.
Patrick and Wendel. Two men, with two very different narratives, honoured by two storied hockey clubs.
Roy had to be reaccepted by the Canadiens family for it to go down. Fucking drama queen. Clark loved being a Toronto Maple Leaf so much he came back home. Twice. He is a Maple Leaf. To the core of his being. It's what defines him.
That's the difference between the two men. Roy played for himself. Wendel Clark never, not once, thought of himself as bigger than the Toronto Maple Leafs, or his teammates, or the game. He was a warrior on the ice, but he played with humility, and it was on full display once again during Saturday night's ceremony. No matter what Rosie DiManno says, Clark deserved his moment at centre ice.
You know how I'll remember Wendel Clark? As the ultimate team player. I'll remember Wendel's wrist shots, and his thundering body checks. I'll remember him as the farm boy from Saskatchewan who captured the big city's collective heart. Most of all, though, I'll remember Clark as the guy who played for the logo on his jersey, the Maple Leaf, instead of the name on his back.
Thanks for the memories, Wendel. Number 17 looks great up in the rafters, where it belongs, for all eternity...
I'm assuming by now that you've checked out the full list, the Top 17 Wendel Clark Moments, over at Down Goes Brown. If you haven't, what the fuck are you waiting for? It's a wonderful trip down memory lane. And take some Kleenex, because something is going to, uh, get caught in your eye.