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Wendel Clark
Wendel Clark.png
Born October 25, 1966 (1966-10-25) (age 52)
Kelvington, Saskatchewan, Canada
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight 194 lb (88 kg; 13 st 12 lb)
Position Left Wing/Defence
Shoots Left
Played for Toronto Maple Leafs
Quebec Nordiques
New York Islanders
Tampa Bay Lightning
Detroit Red Wings
Chicago Blackhawks
National team Flag of Canada.svg Canada
NHL Draft 1st overall, 1985
Toronto Maple Leafs
Playing career 1985–2000

Wendel Clark (born Wendel L. Clark on October 25, 1966) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player. His professional career lasted from 1985 until 2000, during which time he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Quebec Nordiques, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Wendel was chosen first overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team he played with on three separate occasions, captaining the team from 1991 to 1994.

A fan favorite in the city, he has been cited by multiple current NHL players as a boyhood idol.

Playing CareerEdit

Junior Playing CareerEdit

A star junior hockey defenceman with the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League, Wendel was a member of Canada's gold medal winning team at the 1985 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.

Toronto Maple LeafsEdit

Wendel was converted to forward after he was selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft. He was known for his physical play and his offensive mind combined with scoring prowess.

As tough as he was, Wendel's scoring touch and offensive ability was equal to his on-ice toughness. His 227 PIM in his rookie season was the 1985-86 Toronto Maple Leafs team high along with 34 goals which also led the team.

After his rookie season, Wendel was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and finished third in voting for the Calder Memorial Trophy.

The serious back injury that Wendel suffered during a game against the Chicago Blackhawks in 1987 when he was cross-checked into the crossbar of his own goal hindered his progress as an elite NHL player, but nonetheless, he was a crowd favourite at Maple Leaf Gardens and won a place in the hearts of Leaf fans as he provided a spark during the latter part of the Harold Ballard era, considered the darkest period in the storied franchise's history.

For the 1991-92 NHL season, Wendel was named the captain of the Maple Leafs. During the 1992–93 season, his second year captaining the team, the Leafs set team records in wins (44) and points (99) and also made the playoffs for the first time in three years.

The Leafs had a memorable run to the Campbell Conference Finals, but after leading the best-of-seven series three games to two coming within one game of advancing to the Stanley Finals, they lost to the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings, who were coached by Wendel's cousin, Barry Melrose.

Two career defining moments happened in this series for Wendel: his toe-to-toe fight in Game 1 of the series with enforcer Marty McSorley in defense of a big hit McSorley made on Leafs star Doug Gilmour and his hat-trick in Game Six of the seven-game series.

According to Wendel (who had a legendary series performance with 20 points, scoring 10 goals and getting 10 assists during in his 21 games during the 1993 playoffs):

"That series was probably the most excitement I saw around here. It was the furthest the Leafs had advanced in a long time, the team was coming together at the right time and everybody was doing their jobs."

Wendel managed a career season-high 46 goals in 64 games for the Leafs during the 1993–94 season, playing on a line with Dave Andreychuk and Doug Gilmour.

During the playoffs, the Leafs made a second consecutive trip to the Conference Finals, but fell 4–1 to the Vancouver Canucks, who were coached by future Leafs coach Pat Quinn.

Trades & Later YearsEdit

In June 1994, with his value at an all-time high, Wendel was traded to the Quebec Nordiques in a multi-player deal which notably involved a young Mats Sundin. He was succeeded as Maple Leafs captain by Gilmour. He played the lockout-shortened 1994–95 NHL season in Quebec.

After the Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche, Wendel became embroiled in a contract dispute with the team. As a result, shortly before the beginning of the 1995–96 campaign, he was sent to the New York Islanders in a three-way trade that brought Claude Lemieux to Colorado & Steve Thomas to the New Jersey Devils. He played 58 games with the Islanders, but finished the season back in Toronto.

The Islanders received a first round pick from the Leafs (4th overall in 1997) which turned out to be Roberto Luongo.

In 1998, Wendel signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he earned a spot on the North American All-Star team, and went on to score 28 goals in 65 games. Despite his success in Tampa Bay, he was dealt at the trade deadline to the Detroit Red Wings, where he finished the 1998–99 season.

He signed with the Chicago Blackhawks later in 1999, but he only appeared in 13 games with the team.

While Wendel was known for his grit and physical play (amassing 1,690 career penalty minutes), frequent injuries meant that he played only one full season. Due to age, reputation and injuries, his fights became less frequent during latter part of his career, but despite the numerous injuries, his ability to change a game with a single bodycheck continued right up to his eventual retirement in 2000.

Career StatisticsEdit

Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1983–84 Saskatoon Blades WHL 72 23 45 68 225
1984–85 Saskatoon Blades WHL 64 32 55 87 253 3 3 3 6 7
1985–86 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 66 34 11 45 227 10 5 1 6 47
1986–87 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 80 37 23 60 271 13 6 5 11 38
1987–88 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 28 12 11 23 80
1988–89 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 15 7 4 11 66
1989–90 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 38 18 8 26 116 5 1 1 2 19
1990–91 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 63 18 16 34 152
1991–92 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 43 19 21 40 123
1992–93 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 66 17 22 39 193 21 10 10 20 51
1993–94 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 64 46 30 76 115 18 9 7 16 24
1994–95 Quebec Nordiques NHL 37 12 18 30 45 6 1 2 3 6
1995–96 New York Islanders NHL 58 24 19 43 60
1995–96 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 13 8 7 15 16 6 2 2 4 2
1996–97 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 65 30 19 49 75
1997–98 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 47 12 7 19 80
1998–99 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 65 28 14 42 35
1998–99 Detroit Red Wings NHL 12 4 2 6 2 10 2 3 5 10
1999–00 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 13 2 0 2 13
1999–00 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 20 2 2 4 21 6 1 1 2 4
WHL totals 136 55 100 155 478 3 3 3 6 7
NHL totals 793 330 234 564 1690 95 37 32 69 201

AccoladesEdit

  • Selected to two NHL All-Star Games: 1986 and 1999
  • Inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
  • Number 17 jersey retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Playing StyleEdit

Wendel came into the league swinging, and refused to back down to the league's toughest players, racking up 227 PIM during his rookie year. He quickly gained a reputation for hard-nosed hockey, showing little regard for his opponents or himself.

Wendel's most famous check is perhaps his hit on unsuspecting St. Louis' defenseman Bruce Bell. Coming from opposite corners, he caught Bell with his head down, and the devastating hit left Bell unconscious. Many legendary hits followed during his career, leading to his famous nickname "Captain Crunch."

Early in his career, Wendel fought all the league's toughest players, quickly gaining a reputation as a feared pugilist. Despite his size, he more than held his own against much larger opponents, showing a ferocity seldom matched throughout the league.

His list of opponents is a relative who's who of his era's NHL tough-guys such as Craig Berube, Joey Kocur, Bob Probert, Dave Brown, Rick Tocchet, Mark Tinordi, Garth Butcher, Marty McSorley, Mike Peluso and John Kordic.

Personal LifeEdit

Wendel is now employed by the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club as a community ambassador and public relations. He can be seen at virtually all Leaf home games, usually with his wife, Denise and his children.

On November 22, 2008, the Toronto Maple Leafs honoured him by raising his legendary number 17 to the rafters at the Air Canada Centre.

The number was officially retired by the team on October 15, 2016 during a home pre-game ceremony in which 17 players representing 11 different sweater numbers were similarly honoured.

Prior to the Leafs' "Hockey Day in Canada" game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, February 18, 2017, it was announced that statues of iconic Leafs Charlie Conacher, Red Kelly, Frank Mahovlich and he would be added to the Leafs' Legends Row (located outside the Air Canada Centre as part of the ongoing Maple Leafs' Centennial Anniversary).

Wendel owns Wendel Clark's Classic Grill and Sports Lounge, with three restaurants in Brampton, Ontario, Hamilton, Ontario, and Vaughan, Ontario, and resides in King City.