Memories Of Wendel

Regardless of how many people across the globe are going to spend the next 2 days waxing retrospective of how much they, individually, loved Wendel Clark, we all know that it's impossible to have 'too much Wendel', unless you were unlucky enough to drop the gloves against him.

As you all know, Wendel Clark was drafted 1st overall in the 1985 Entry Draft.

I was born in October of 1985 (5 days after Wendel!).

As the math would suggest, for the first 8 years of my life, I did not know a world without Wendel Clark as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As a child growing up in a family with a Father as a Leafs fan, Aunts & Uncles as Leafs fans, and a Grandmother that wouldn't let someone into her house wearing Montreal Canadiens merchandice (true story: I was kicked out once for wearing a Habs sweater on a dare), I was exposed to the passion that would shape my life at an early age.

Wendel Clark was my first ever favourite athlete, on my first ever favourite sports team. As a child, you just don't forget about someone like that.

I can remember playoff games where there would be 10-15 members of my whole family sitting in my basement getting ready for the Leafs to start playing, where I'd be perched beside my Father, listening to my Aunts & Uncles debate the merits of the team. Yes, spread throughout the conversation, my little brain would pick-up the names and faces of the other players. There were always those who'd talk about Potvin, the young stud between the pipes, and it'd be impossible not to know about Dougie Gilmour, who looked like he could have fit right in beside my Unlces in that basement. Killer would be impossible not to know of, if for no other reason than that he was a part of 85% of the goals the Leafs scored that year. There were arguements about the merits of Mironov, Andreychuk, Borschevsky, Foligno and Gartner, but the one everyone could agree on was: We were nothing without Wendel. At that age, everything you hear adults say sounds like the truth, and when you hear a room full of full-grown adults that you've known your whole life ALL AGREE that something is true, it may as well have been passed down from God himself.  Hearing Wendel Clark's name would send me into an excited frenzy everytime, and I'd start getting urged by my father to "show everyone your Wendie impression"

The Wendel Clark impression was extremely simple:

  • Pretend to drop gloves
  • Run and smash into the couch where my Aunts were sitting, while an Unlce yells "Clark crushes Neely along the boards!" (we had a problem with Cam Neely, I can't explain why)
  • Return to the centre of the basement, fake a slapshot, and throw my hands into the air in celebration
  • Run along the couches, getting high-fives from my 'teammates'

As a child, I wasn't always 100% comprehending what I was watching when the Leafs were on TV; complex strategies, line matchups, ice time, defensive structure and other nuances of the game were usually over my 8-year old head, except when it came to Wendel. There was never any need for interpretation or explanation with Wendel Clark. Wendel WAS hockey to me. He singlehandedly represented everything fun about the sport. In the same game, Wendel Clark could hold my short childish attention span because he was ALWAYS doing something. I wouldn't watch anyone else besides Gilmour, and if neither of them were on the ice, I'd just watch the Leafs bench, waiting for 17 to jump back on and spark my imagination.

He hit, he fought, he scored, he led. Wendel Clark always has been, and always will be, my favourite Toronto Maple Leaf of all time.

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