November 24, 2008

Wendel Clark: The Anti Roy

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.


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.

Oh, and props out to Down Goes Brown for joining TheScore.com's new Sports Federation. I may not agree with the man on many fronts, but that doesn't mean I don't know his blog is one of the best out there. And we all gotta pay the bills. Good on you, DGB.

28 comments:

kushnir said...

great piece. I have a childrens small wendel jersey signed by the farmer himself. I also think I have a Deangelo's apple juice poster signed by him...


Btw, I think Wendel's fist pump is the best one of all time. Nothing like seeing that man let a wrist shot go, then do a double swinging fist pump.

Down Goes Brown said...

Great post.

I've always liked Roy, and if Habs fans can get past the walk-off then I can too.

That said, I think it's ironic that for all the talk we always hear about the Habs being the model of class and the Leafs being a mess, it was Montreal who had to beg their guy on bended knee to come back for his ceremony. I thought the Leafs were the only team that ever had a dispute with a star player?

Pension Plan Puppets said...

Btw, I think Wendel's fist pump is the best one of all time. Nothing like seeing that man let a wrist shot go, then do a double swinging fist pump.

The best was in the tribute video where Wendel is doing the wind-mill fist pump and the right side of his jersey is covered in blood. I wonder who got it punched out?

Anonymous said...

I would have rather had Roy on the leafs than Clark....

Nuff Said.

Bhattorious

MotherPucker.ca said...

I agree with you about Clark. He was 10x the player and played with 10x the heart that Roy did. That cocky bastard (son too) should be embarrassed with how they have made names for themselves.

eyebleaf said...

@ Kushnir: That jersey is a keeper. And you're absolutely right about Wendel's fist pumps. They were definitely some of the best. I've got to get a video up on here.

@ DGB: That's true. Guys like Cox are always complaining about the way they treat former star players. And I don't know, I'm still not convinced that what Roy did was right all those years ago. The ego on that guy. But I guess that's what made him such a winner. And he did have to be honoured. It could not not happen.

@ PPP: That tribute video had a lot of fist pumps, and a lot of blood. It was pretty fucking bad ass.

@ Bhatti: That's a tough one. Clark was a bad ass. For a period of time, he was the Leafs. Sure, we didn't win, but I wouldn't trade in those years or those memories. Clark was special. Now take off your God damn Habs jersey and get out of my face.

eyebleaf said...

@ MotherPucker: Love the name, dude, and thanks. And, yeah, Roy junior is a chip off the old block, eh? Kid needs a beating. A Wendel Clark style beating.

Johnny G said...

You jinxed Steen!

eyebleaf said...

@ Johnny: =( Can't believe it, man. And Carlo!

Dheeraj Vaswani said...

Anyone who says that Roy played for himself is truly classless.

This guy was the ultimate team player in the dressing room. All these false judgments due to a bias personal opinion of Roy. It's pathetic.

How about when he lost the game 7 against Detroit in the playoffs in horrible fashion, he still went out of his way to sign an autograph for a kid in the hospital.

When Bourque was on the Aves, It was Roy who came out and said it was his mission to make sure Bourque got his cup. That's classless?

When the Canadiens in 93 were down 2-0 to the Nordiques it was St. Patrick who put that team on his back and brought CANADA IT'S LAST STANLEY CUP.

As for that fateful night in Detroit. Roy was embarrassed by a classless egotistical coach who's goal was to show Roy that HE WAS more important to the Canadiens than Roy. What happened to Mario Tremblay that season? My point exactly.

As for Clark, no disrespect, he was a great player, but he doesn't belong on the same level as Roy. His play on the ice never said that he played for himself. As far as I know, selfish players don't win 3 Conn Smythe trophies. THE ONLY PLAYER IN NHL HISTORY to win 3 Conn Smythe's. More than Gretzky, more than Lemieux, more than Messier.

I guarantee if Patrick had played for the Leafs, your views would be a complete flip of what they are now.

He was the greatest of all time and to make an accusation that he played for himself is possibly the worst thing you've ever written. It's truly disgraceful to make a comment like that.

eyebleaf said...

@ Dheeraj: Roy's classless. And a douchebag. A classless douchebag.

eyebleaf said...

@ Dheeraj: Did I mention he's classless for quitting on the Habs and his teammates? Did I mention he's classless for not playing for his country just because he wasn't given the number one job?

OK, just wanted to clarify.

Dheeraj Vaswani said...

4 time Stanley Cup winner...

How many did Clark win?

wrap around curl said...

I am so disappointed that you didn't even mention his epically awesome facial hair.

Dheeraj Vaswani said...

Your opinion of him being a douchebag is wrong. Your opinion of him being classless is baseless.

Go talk to any of his team mates from Montreal or Colorado. Every player to a man has always said that he was a great team mate and the greatest competitor they played with.

He defined a position, revolutionized a position.

Your personal bias is what's classless.

eyebleaf said...

@ Dheeraj: Oh God, the Stanley Cup trump card. Again, I said it in the post, no one is denying what Roy accomplished. He's a winner. No one's won three Conn Smythe trophies. He upped his game when it mattered most. But that doesn't mean he's not a douchebag. That doesn't mean he didn't play for himself and himself only. That doesn't mean he's not a quitter. Because he did quit on Montreal. He did quit on his teammates. Just like I cannot deny his hardware, you cannot deny those facts. Roy's an asshole. He just happens to be an uber-talented asshole.

@ Wrap: The stache. How the fuck could I forget the stache? Another post is in store just for Clark's stache and his fist pumpage.

eyebleaf said...

When you quit on your teammates and your team, who were just as embarrassed as he was that they were losing 9-1, you lose the title of "great teammate." You didn't see any other member of the Habs going up to the owner and saying they'd never play again. We're goalies, you and I, we know how it feels to have a bad night. We know what it feels like to want to hide under a rock. But getting pounded didn't give him the right to quit. He was, and forever will be, wrong in his actions that night.

And, AGAIN, being a fierce competitor and revolutionizing a position, I'm not arguing against any of that. He was a winner. I'll say it again and again. But he wasn't a "great teammate" like Wendel was. Clark exemplified being a great teammate. He checked his ego at the door, always. Roy never did.

Dheeraj Vaswani said...

Everything you claim about Roy is based on one NIGHT. Yes, you and I are goalies. A coach has a duty to protect his superstar goalie. You don't leave a goalie in there like that to get embarrassed. Tremblay embarrassed Roy that night. A rookie coach who never proved a thing in the NHL embarrassed the greatest goaltender of all time. Who the fuck is Tremblay. No one ever blames Tremblay, just Roy. Talk to possibly one of the greatest players of all time, Ray Bourque. Hear what he has to say about Roy as a team mate. Talk to Sakic and hear what he has to say about Roy. They swear by Roy. I'm sorry, but i'm going to take the word of two of the greatest player of all time Sakic and Borque over yours on how good or bad a team mate Patrick is.

eyebleaf said...

One night, and the whole Team Canada fiasco, when he proved, yet again, just how big his ego was. You know, I'm sure that Sakic and Bourque have very nice and great things to say about Roy. But, at the end of the day, because Roy's ego took a hit, he quit on his Montreal teammates. To me, that is the ultimate sin an athlete can commit. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. He may have been a great teammate, but you never, ever quit on your guys. Never. That makes him a douchebag.

Oh, a classless douchebag.

Johnny G said...

One can be both a fierce competitor and classless. They are not mutually exclusive.

eyebleaf said...

@ Johnny: Totally agree. No one's denying Roy's competitiveness. He mentioned it in his speech, too. His crazy desire to win. That doesn't mean he didn't accomplish all of his goals while not being a douchebag.

eyebleaf said...

My colleague at work made an interesting observation: "I guess it's true where nice guys finish."

Man, I need a good cry.

kushnir said...

STEMPNIAK!!!!

dani said...

Congratulations on being Stempniak'd. He's from West Seneca...

eyebleaf said...

@ Kushnir: LEE!!!!!!!!1

@ Dani: Ah, a good old western New York fella. I'm looking forward to him. Sad to see Steener and Cola go, but looking forward to Stemps.

Anonymous said...

Its not about me having a habs jersey on....you should know how much i love the leafs and Clark...he was my hero back in the days, but as an overall picture...Roy would have made the leafs champions....for ONLY that reason i would rather have roy than clark...all other reasons, all my memories....i am glad we had Clark...his mullet and his handlebar mustache...

Bhattorious

kushnir said...

@ anonymous

do you remember how BAD the leaf teams in clacks tenure was? I dont even think Roy could have righted that ship. Maaaaybe in 93', but dont forget how beast of a series clarky had

Anonymous said...

all this 'playing every game like it was game 7' stuff is a bit of revisionist history.

i think i see what you're doing;
clark used to fight and hit = clark is an old time hockey player = old time hockey players have great character = great character means you do stuff like play hard every night = clark played hard everynight

clark definitely took nights off, if you stop and remember properly. remember in the early 90's, before gilmour and cliff turned the leafs into contenders, people on call in shows would call in every night calling for him to be traded. and then later in his career he turned into a b-list brett hull (because of injuries, i know) who was just a perimeter player.

and he was never really that good, right? i don't ever remember him being in the conversation for team canada.

i liked wendal too, and for about 4 years he was a force, and think it was right to have his number retired. but sucking him off so unconditionally doesn't seem so warranted.