Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Ottawa Sun: Your source for coverage of the Leafs and also those other guys

I've made the occasional mention of the defining characteristic of a Senators fan: a crippling insecurity about the Maple Leafs. This leads to folks in Ottawa spending a lot of time complaining that the Leafs are on TV too much, accusing every broadcaster of secretly being a Toronto homer, and pleading with Leaf fans to not make too much noise at Senator games.

But there are days when you have to feel for these guys. While it may seem pathetic to spend your every waking hour looking under your bed for Leaf fans, sometimes it's understandable. After all, it's not paranoia if it's true.

For example, today's Ottawa Sun has a 20-page sports section. Here's how their hockey coverage breaks down:

Ottawa Senators:

  • One almost full-page story about last night's Islanders game
  • An additional full page of Sens/Isles coverage with Don Brennan
  • A one-page fluff piece about Shean Donovan, the sort of thing you expect to see in a high school newsletter. We learn that he likes Kraft Dinner and Nickelback
Toronto Maple Leafs:
  • A small story about last night's Leafs/Flyers game
  • A half-page column on Brian Burke (Mike Zeisberger's piece from the Toronto Sun)
  • Two more full pages about Brian Burke (from Bill Lankhof)
  • Bruce Garrioch's "Rinkwrap" rumor column, featuring four separate items on the Leafs (nothing about Ottawa)
  • A short story about Jason Blake's upcoming return to the lineup
  • Steve Simmons' weekly column, most of which is about the Leafs
Just to be clear, this is the Ottawa Sun.

I can only imagine how maddening it must be as a Sens fan to open your own local paper and see more ink spilled about your hated rival than about your own team. Sure, Brian Burke is a big story, but if the Sens hired a new GM tomorrow do you think the Toronto Sun would give it more than two column inches?

Hell, there's even a top ten list of famous "own goals", written by the Winnipeg Sun's Todd Wyman, that includes Bryan McCabe but somehow leaves out Chris Phillips' infamous wraparound on Ray Emery. The Sens can't even get a mention when they score a Stanley Cup winner.

So the next time you mention the Leafs to a Sens fan and they start into a red-faced, spittle-launching rant about Bob Cole and the Toronto Sports Network and the secret message you hear if you play the HNIC theme backwards and how unfair it all is... give them a break.

They may be on to something.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The most obscure jersey in Leafs fan history?

My last post mentioned Leaf jerseys and lead to some comments from fans with odd jersey choices. One guy had Jason Blake, another was thinking of getting a Jeff Finger jersey, and another had an old Sylvain Lefebvre.

Well, I'm pretty sure I can beat that. I mentioned this over at Die Hard Blue and White, but now it's time to tell the Craig Berube story.

In 1991, I decided to ask for a new Leafs jersey for Christmas. That year's team wasn't very good, so there weren't many players to choose from. There was Wendel Clark, of course, but everybody had Wendel jerseys. As a moody teenager, I wasn't going to just go along with the crowd on such an important fashion choice, so Wendel was out.

There was new goalie Grant Fuhr, and some holdovers like Gary Leeman, and Peter Zezl was kind of cool. But I decided that if I was going to be different, I'd go really different. I'd get somebody that nobody else had. I'd get Craig Berube.


Journeyman enforcer Craig Berube was acquired by the Leafs in the Damphousse/Fuhr trade during the 1991 off-season. Like most Leaf tough guys (but not all), he was a popular player with the Gardens faithful. He had some memorable scraps, including this one against Basil McRae, and this one against a future Leaf. Also, he had a bad-ass mullet.

So that's what I asked for (the jersey, not the mullet). And even though it was pretty tough to get a custom jersey back then, my parents came through. On Christmas morning, 1991, I was the proud owner of a brand new #16 Craig Berube jersey, quite possibly the only one ever created.

Some of you who know your Leafs history can see where this is going.

I spent most of the week between Christmas and New Year's doing family things, so I didn't get a chance to wear the jersey right away. But the day after New Year's, I went downtown for the day with a few friends. A perfect time to break out my new fashion statement. I even wore a thick sweater under the jersey so that I wouldn't have to cover it up with a coat.

As we walked around Toronto during the day, the jersey didn't get a lot of attention. But later in the day, I noticed people starting to look my way. And as we headed for the subway ride home in the evening, I was pretty sure that people were actually pointing and talking about me when I walked by.

I was officially the coolest kid in the world, wearing my one-of-a-kind Craig Berube jersey.

On January 2, 1992.


When I got home that night, my dad was waiting for me when I walked in the door. "Nice jersey," he said. "Heard the news?"

It turns out that while I was strutting around downtown Toronto in my jersey, the Leafs had pulled off one of the most famous trades in hockey history, a ten player deal with the Flames. The Leafs had acquired Doug Gilmour, among others, and sent the Flames a package built around Gary Leeman that also included, of course, Craig Berube.

Eight days. That's how long it took my Christmas present to get traded. I wore it once. And I was the only person in Toronto who has mad about the Gilmour deal.

(Epilogue: I decided to keep wearing the jersey anyways, and I credit myself with single-handedly starting the retro jersey fad that would take hold a decade later.)

So what do you think? Do I win the prize for most obscure Leaf jersey of all-time? Or can somebody out there top me? What's the most obscure jersey you've ever owned, or seen? Post away in the comment section.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ottawa Senators hockey -- feel the excitement

True story from last night's game.

With about two minutes left in regulation and the Leafs generating some good pressure, a group of Scotiabank Place ushers descended on section 103 to order Leaf fans to be quiet. Apparently you can stand during a Senators game, and you can cheer during a Senators game, but standing and cheering is just going overboard.

The ushers furiously waved for Leaf fans to sit down and be quiet, even writing up some sort of citation for one guy (although I don't think he was kicked out). They seemed to be worried that the fans could block somebody's view. And while I'm sure the 5'4, 110 lb girl in the Wendel Clark jersey was just impossible to see around, I should probably point out that nobody seemed to mind during the rare occasion when a Sens fan made some noise.

Only in Ottawa...

A few other notes from last night's game:

  • Hey, does anybody know if the Senators have a new black jersey? Can these be purchased by fans? I'm not sure, because there was about 30 seconds during last night's game when the PA announcer wasn't begging Sens fans to buy them.

  • By the way, is there some sort of league bylaw that insists that every team must break out their third jerseys against the Leafs? I don't even know what teams' real jerseys look like anymore. This whole argument about how the Leafs don't matter anymore and are overexposed would hold a little more weight if every team in the league didn't treat games against the Leafs as their biggest marketing opportunity of the year.

  • Speaking of jerseys, here's a fun game to play when Toronto comes to town: scan through the hundreds of fans wearing Leaf jerseys, and try to find one with a name and number of a guy who's still on the team. For extra degree of difficulty, don't count Curtis Joseph.

    Last night I saw dozens of Clark, Gilmour and Sundin jerseys. I saw a McCabe, a couple of Tuckers, a few Domis and even a Lindros. But the only current Leaf I could find was a Matt Stajan jersey. That was it.

    Then again, given that Burke is coming in to dynamite the whole organization, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea for everyone to hold off until March before shelling out for a new jersey.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Five for fighting: The five worst Leaf goons

Over the years, the Leafs have had their share of entertaining tough guys. Tiger Williams and Tie Domi are two of the all-time greats, and guys like Ken Baumgartner, John Kordic, Craig Berube and Wade Belak all had their moments.

But you can't win them all. And if you're one of the guys below, you couldn't win any of them some nights.

In honor of Andre Deveaux's debut, and the inevitable flood of goonery that's about to start as a result of Brian Burke's arrival, let's take a look back at the five least effective Leaf enforcers.

#5 - Greg Smyth

Here's what I remember about Greg Smyth: I remember the trade that brought him to Toronto in exchange for cash(!) being announced during a mid-week Leaf game on Global TV. I remember him having hockey hair and a pornstache. And I remember he had two stints with the Leafs, once in 1993 and again in 1996.

That's it. I have no recollection of him ever doing anything with the Leafs. At all.

Neither does youtube, apparently, so here's a clip of Smyth fighting Bob Probert:

#4 - Nathan Perrot

Perrot was a minor league tough guy who had enjoyed a brief stint in the NHL with Nashville before the Leafs acquired him and assigned him to the AHL. He played a half season in Tornto in 2003-4, not doing much, and made the team in 2005-6. However, Perrot's claim to fame in Toronto is his (alleged) refusal to fight Brian McGrattan. That lead to the veteran Domi feeling obligated to step up, which didn't go well for him.

Perrot never played another game for the Leafs, who shipped him to the Stars for a late-round pick a week later. Oddly enough, he was reacquired by the organization in 2007 and played a handful of games with the Marlies, but never made it back to the NHL. He's currently in Russia.

Here's Perrot doing what Leaf enforcers do best: feeding Chris Neil.

#3 - Kevin McLelland

Remember when Kevin McLelland was one of Wayne Gretzky's bodyguards in Edmonton? He was a pretty good enforcer back then. A few years later, when he wound up with the Leafs in 1991... not so much.

Here he is taking on Mike Peluso. I'm using this clip because of the bonus clip at the very start.

#2 - Ryan Hollweg

He's terrible.

When Ryan Hollweg isn't trying to cripple guys with cowardly hits from behind, he's busy viciously attacking opponents' fists with his face. Here he is doing what de does best (bleeding) against Michael Rupp of the Devils.

#1 - Kevin Maguire

Maguire made his debut with the Leafs in 1987, then went on to establish a name for himself in Buffalo. He was perhaps best known for trying to fight Steve Yzerman, which isn't a good idea when Bob Probert is on the ice. (Watch the whole clip, and compare Probert to Stu Grimson's reaction to the Clark/Marchment fight. This is the difference between a guy who wants to fight, and a guy wants to look like he wants to fight.)

Maguire wound up back in Toronto in the early 90s, where he briefly formed a tag team with McLelland that gave opposing tough guys the chance to brutally beat up two Leafs on the same night.

But he earns top spot on the list based on this:

Yes, that's Maguire fighting Wendel Clark in practice.

I mean... what would have to... how could you ever think that...

Are you fucking insane?

It's never a good idea to fight Wendel Clark, but at least guys who played for other teams had some sort of obligation to try. There was something vaguely admirable about seeing another team's enforcer challenge Clark, willing to take one for the team even though he knew he was about to die.

But when Clark is your teammate, and you still try to fight him... you, sir, are the dumbest man in the history of time. That kind of stupidity is more than enough to earn top spot on this list.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

DGB readers speak; Leafs listen

Mere hours after Down Goes Brown readers rose up and demanded the callup of Andre Deveaux in the comment section of this post, the Leafs have bent to the power of public will and announced that they'll do exactly that.

I'm not going to say that MLSE reads this blog and reacts immediately to our every whim. But I'm also not denying that.

Here's the scouting report on Deveaux, courtesy Steve at

I'm not completely sold on Deveaux as the answer to our glaring need for an enforcer. He can fight, and he's big, but I don't see him being a guy who'll drop them 20 or 25 times a year in the NHL. But every little bit helps, and hey, he can't be worse than Ryan Hollweg.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Burke's first task: Find an enforcer

OK, enough is enough. The Leafs need an enforcer, or somebody's going to get hurt out there.

Another game, another two huge hits on unsuspecting Leafs. There's no doubt that the Leafs lead the league in being on receiving end of highlight reel hits.

Last year I called the Leafs the softest team in the NHL. The additions of Jamal Mayers and Ryan Hollweg was supposed to fix that, but haven't. Mayers did a nice job tonight against Garnet Exelby, but he's no heavyweight. Hollweg is just awful.

Let's be clear: the Leafs aren't soft the way last year's team was. This year's squad plays a tougher style, doesn't shy away from physical play, and has shown admirably eagerness to stick up for one another.

And that's the problem. They're almost too fearless. They play with guts, and those guts are going to wind up smeared across the ice pretty soon.

So far we've seen Matt Stajan, Jason Blake, and Mikhail Grabovski each get crushed on multiple occasions. Mike Van Ryn got run through the glass by the Bruins before being run through the end boards by the Habs. Luke Schenn almost had his leg broken on a cowardly trip on an icing call.

And guys like Schenn, Alex Ponikarovsky and Carlo Colaiacovo (RIP) have each dropped the gloves more than once to stick up for a teammate. That's admirable, but none of those guys should be fighting.

The Leafs are a team full of small guys who play like they're big. They're willing to skate into a high traffic area. They're will to take a hit to make a play.

That's great. They have big hearts. But they don't have big bodies, and pretty soon simple physics will catch up to them.

Not every team in the NHL has a heavyweight. In fact, some very good ones (like Detroit) don't dress one. That's fine. Not every team needs a tough guy.

But this team does. Mayers and Hollweg don't scare anybody. When the Bruins were brutalizing the Leafs with clean hits, do you think Milan Lucic was worried about anyone looking for payback? When the Habs were brutalizing the Leafs with dirty hits, do you think George Laraque bothered to look over his shoulder?

Right now, if you're a physical player the Leafs are a fun team to play against. There's an excellent chance that some speedy midget will cut across the trolley tracks with his head down, just begging to get knocked out. And if somebody does come after you, there's a good chance you'll have an easy time padding your won/loss record.

Here's hoping Burke has seen enough. Let's find a legitimate tough guy -- a top ten or twenty heavyweight. Preferably somebody who can play a little bit, but I'm not too picky. As long as they're big, can throw, and have just enough crazy in them to do some damage.

The next time some highly skilled Leaf (or Jason Blake) decides to admire his pass, let's make sure the guy closing in on him has something to think about besides "Hey, I'm going to be on Sportscenter tonight!"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Leafs vs Habs in 1993: Sportsnet has the answer

Who would have won a Stanley Cup FInal between Wendel's Leafs and Patrick Roy's Habs? We've all debated it. Now, Sportsnet television superstar Ian Mendes has the definitive answer.

Background: I've known Ian for years. Despite covering the Sens beat, he's a die-hard Habs fan (but has to pretend to like the Sens so that the rest of the Ottawa homer media don't ostracize him).

I've had about four fozen arguments with him about a Habs/Leafs series over the years. These arguments can get into an astounding level of hypothetical detail. I won't spoil the end of his article, but I'm taking personal credit for any success the Leafs may have.

Leafs trade Steen and Colaiacovo for Lee Stempniak

Apparently Trader Cliff felt like getting in one for the road.

Well, at least if you assume that Fletcher did this on his own, without consulting with Burke. Which seems like a foolish assumption to me, even though that's the angle the media seems to be running with.

I don't know much about Stempniak so I'll resist the urge to annoyingly declare a "winner" in thie deal before any of the players even have time to get on an airplane. But my initial reaction is that any forward who has been scoring at a point-a-game pace can probably crack the Leafs' first two lines.

Steen has a boatload of talent, but for whatever reason it just wasn't happening for him in Toronto. Maybe a fresh start will wake him up. That means he could be yet another Steve Sullivan/Kyle Wellwood story, but so be it. There's no reason to hang on to a depreciating asset just to prevent anyone else from mining any value out of it.

I'm genuinely happy for Colaiacovo. Last month I wrote a post about my hope that the Leafs would trade him. I think he got a raw deal in Toronto, both due to bad luck on the injury front and Ron Wilson deciding to make an example out of him. That's the way it goes sometimes, but I'm happy to see him get a fresh start. I really hope he succeeds in St. Louis.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thoughts on Ceremony Saturday

I thought MLSE did a good job with last night's ceremony. It wasn't long and it wasn't overly dramatic, but Wendel wouldn't have wanted that. The video was excellent, and the crowd did a great job of making sure it was a memorable night.

A few more thoughts:

  • My favorite moment of the evening was Wendel trying to start his speech, and the crowd not letting him because they weren't done with their ovation. So Wendel just keeps on talking, and eventually the fans quiet down. Even in retirement, he's still winning battles every time he steps on the ice.

  • Let's get this out of the way: if the roles had been reversed and it was the Leafs that scheduled a banner raising on the same night that the Habs had already announced one, you know the Toronto media would have made it into an issue. It would have been one of those fake, manufactured issues, but you know they would have done it.

    Not that it mattered, of course. Having the Roy ceremony start at 6:30 was a good compromise.

  • That said, did you notice that Wendel's highlight video included a clip of him scoring on Roy? Anyone think that was an accident?

  • Speaking of coincidences, how about Craig Simpson being assigned to cover the Leafs/Hawks game last night? I wonder if he enjoyed watching the outpouring of affection from Toronto fans to a beloved player. Once again, Craig, great work on the whole "I don't want to play hockey in Toronto" thing. Pittsburgh was a much better option. Good call.

  • I thought the Habs did a great job with Roy's ceremony. Sure, it was overly long and way too heavy on the dramatic, but this is Montreal. In their Incredibly Important and Wonderful 100th Season (Give Or Take a Year), you knew they would go all-out for Patrick. And it worked. I especially liked the kids wearing the uniforms of french-Canadian goalies who've followed him. Great touch.

  • Not to be picky, but what was the deal with the potted plant on the ice in Montreal? Did that have some sort of meaning that I missed? Or did somebody in Montreal just decided that there needed to be a house plant on the ice?

  • Meanwhile, the Toronto Star's coverage featured an article by Rosie DiManno trashing the Leafs and Clark. And Damien Cox, the paper's top hockey writer, is filing pieces about the Grey Cup instead. And then they wonder why newspapers are dying.

  • The best journalism of the night may have been the CBC's intermission feature with Wendel returning to the Gardens. It was a great piece, but was anyone else shocked to see what MLG looks like these days?

    We've been told for years that it's in shambles, practically a junkyard after years of neglect. Well, apparently not. The seats are still there! It looks like they just need to put up some boards and flood the rink and it's ready to go. What exactly is keeping us from following General Borschevsky's suggestion and getting some hockey -- any hockey -- played there?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Guest post: The making of the "All Heart" video

The Wendel Clark "All Heart" video first appeared in various forums three years ago. It was later posted to youtube, where its had almost 700,000 views and become the definitive tribute to Clark's career.

But despite the video's popularity, there was a mystery around it: Who made it? The youtube user who uploaded said it wasn't him. The video had become a genuine phenomenom in Leaf Nation, and nobody knew where it came from.

Today, the video's creator breaks his silence. Introducing Dan Christopher, the creator of the best thing on the entire internet.

I was randomly googling the other day and happened across this blog. Down Goes Brown. Haha, nice. Obscure reference to a classic Bowen call. Instant credibility; my interest was piqued. Clicking through a few entries, I see on-the-money commentary laced with dry, causic wit.

Six-and-a-half hours of agreeing with everything later, I finally manage to tear myself away.

I am the author of the All Heart Wendel Clark tribute video, and up until now I've remained largely anonymous for the 3+ years it has been in circulation. There's a a few reasons for this, most falling in the "It's not about me, it's about Wendel" category, but also because I was/am scared of Lars Ulrich.

Aside from some very touching youtube comments and a public nod from Jim Lang at Sportsnet, I haven't yet had the opportunity to take a victory lap with anyone, and this weekend is a very fitting time to change all that.

All Heart is very special to me. I spent a total of six months scouring ebay,, and gathering cruddy old Wendel tapes. That's VHS tapes for you kids. They cost a lot to ship. And, well, they suck. Many were outright duplicates of each other, many were of unusable quality, and one even had parts of a pretty good 80s porn on it.

I spent a ton of money I didn't have on analog-to-digital conversion hardware. I spent a ton of time I didn't have teaching myself Adobe Premiere from absolute scratch. And the end result is #13 on a pretty awesome list kicking around here somewhere.

Here's why I made it:

I grew up playing competitive hockey in the GTA for Weston, Humber Valley, West Mall, Etobicoke and Mississauga. I was pretty good and all, picked up some decent hardware in my day, but the greatest accolade I ever received was in Minor Atom, first year of body contact. At the end of a shift, the ref skated over and said "Excuse me sir, are you in any way related to Wendel Clark? Nice hit!"

When I told my Dad afterward he beamed. I did too. And still am 22 years later. I was compared to Wendel Clark by an impartial figure of authority within the confines of an official Hockey Canada sanctioned match. And so it goes.

Fast forward to June 28, 1994. Wendel for Mats. My heart shatters, and I spend the next year and a half passing the jagged pieces through my urethra. Prior to this day I had always assumed that ultimate victory was only a matter of time. The Toronto Sun billboards depicting my hero holding the Stanley Cup aloft, the 1993 and 1994 playoff runs, it all served to further cement the ideal in my head. It was only a matter of time. Wendel would hoist that cup. Justice was right around the corner.

Yet on June 28, 1994, the laws of the universe looked at each other, shrugged and said something to the effect of "to hell with this". Cue everything being ruined. Cue 1.5 years of urethratic agony. And so it goes.

But hope would return. On March 13, 1996, the day Wendel Clark was reacquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, I went out with friends, ordered a pitcher of beer, emptied the entire thing over my head, grabbed a microphone from the band that was playing and screamed "WENDEL" into it as loud as I could.

And so it goes.

As the seasons wore on without notable playoff success, the team unofficially (and eventually officially), became Mats' team. Mats' team. A brooding resentment took root in my psyche. Wendel was let go, again. The resentment intensified. Wendel was reacquired, again. I was being swung to and fro in some grotesque metaphysical square-dance I did not understand.

The third and final time Wendel Clark was reacquired, he was not the Wendel of old. As mentioned previously in the list, this was a tired, broken, spent Wendel who was a healthy scratch on many nights. Mats' team. I was in a state of despair. This was not how it was supposed to be. My hero was growing old, ageing, fading, falling from grace, and no one seemed to care. Mats' team.

In desperation, I turned to, hoping to air out these troubled thoughts and empathize with fellow fans.

I logged in.


Remember the scene in Falling Down where the fly lands on Michael Douglas' neck, triggering a mindless rampage of destruction and bloodshed? That was kind of like me, then. Over the Internet. It was from that moment forward that I began systematically HATING everything and anything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Players, coaches, management, the ACC, the jersey changes, and especially the legion of fickle, idiot, asshat "fans" who all deserved to choke on their own piece of shit opinions and die. It was unhealthy, but so it went.

As the years went on my hatred for the Leafs did anything but abate. Whenever I saw a Leaf sweater with a 'C' on the front, I held out hope there was a '17' on the back. I held out hope that I wasn't the only one who remembered what it used to mean to wear that 'C'. I held out hope that I wasn't the only one who refused to swear unconditional allegiance to the new regime. I quote: "After a career of false starts and bad backs and bad luck and terrible teams and blood and bruises, after all the hours on the trainer's table, after all the fights with guys twice his size", I didn't want to be the only one who remembered Wendel.

So I put together All Heart.

All of a sudden, sentiment ran rampant. It was always there, it just needed a beacon and a venue. Youtube provided this.

"They don't make hockey players like that anymore"
"That video brought a tear to my eye"
"I'm too young to have seen him play, thanks for making this"

This was why I made the video. This was all I required. People were talking Wendel again, and I had no intention of diverting even a fraction of that attention away.

So thanks, DGB. Thanks, Dad. Thanks, Liz. And thanks to everyone who remembers.

Come Saturday let's give Wendel something to remember us by.

- Dan Christopher

Top 17 Wendel Clark Moments - The Full List

This list was a lot of fun to put together. Thanks again to everyone who participated in the comments (120+ and counting), and for the various kind words there and elsewhere. It's good to know that there are still plenty of Leaf fans who remember the old days (and don't mind talking about them in ridiculous detail).

And for those new readers who found us through various links this week, welcome to the site. I hope you stick around. Don't forget to bookmark us or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Here's the final list:

#17 - Draft Day
#16 - Clark vs. Peluso
#15 - Belfour's five-hole
#14 - Clark vs. Marchment
#13 - The "All Heart" Video
#12 - Clark vs. Cujo
#11 - Clark vs. Neely
#10 - Debut as Captain
#9 - Clark vs. Chelios
#8 - Clark vs. Mackey (and others)
#7 - Clark vs. Fetisov
#6 - The Final Ovation
#5 - Clark vs. Probert
#4 - Welcome Home
#3 - Bruce Bell
#2 - Game Six
#1 - Clark vs. McSorley

And some honorable mentions I couldn't find room for, in no particular order:

  • The back-to-back hat tricks in 1994.
  • Clark singlehandedly wins gold for Canada at the WJC
  • Clark vs Behn Wilson
  • "Wendel Clark Appreciation Day" at Mel Lastman square (Aug. 23, 1994 -- proud to say I was there.)
  • Clark's final goal, the clincher to win the first Ottawa series (I was there for that one too)
  • Clark touches off the Flyers brawl that lead to Potvin/Hextall
  • The hit that destroyed a North Stars goalie behind the net (anyone remember who?)
  • The hit on Probert in the 1993 playoffs
  • The hit along the boards that turned around the Sharks series
  • Clark vs. MacTavish
  • The "good book, eh" commercial
  • Two goals in a game seven win against the Blues
  • Two goals in a game seven win against the Kings
  • Two goals in a game seven win against the Sharks
  • ... and many more I'm sure I'll think of later.
Now it's your turn. What did I miss? What did I get wrong? What moment should have been higher?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wendel Moment #1 - Clark vs. McSorley

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

Leaf fans knows the scene by heart. Game one of the Campbell Conference finals, the LA Kings visiting the Gardens. The Leafs are cruising to a win late in the third. Doug Gilmour cuts across the blueline with his head down, and Marty McSorley steps into him. Maybe it's an elbow, maybe not. Gilmour goes down, stick flying through the air, and he stays down.

And suddenly all the optimism of a miracle season is gone. Dougie's hurt. Fans who were dreaming about a Stanley Cup moments ago can only stare in horror. Marty McSorley has just taken out the Leafs franchise player.

Wendel Clark is a first liner, McSorely is a hired goon. Doesn't matter.

Wendel is at the end of a shift. Doesn't matter.

Wendel is worn out and broken down, spending four hours a day on the trainer's table just to be able to suit up. Doesn't matter.

Wendel is half McSorley's size, giving up at least three inches and over 40 lbs. Doesn't matter.

The best player on the team is down and out, crumpled on the ice, and the other side's goon is standing over top of him. That's what matters. That's all that matters.

This list has featured more than a few examples of Wendel Clark laying guys out, and I've made a point of noting the reactions of various teammates. Stu Grimson's ridiculous "hold me back" routine. Keith Brown's comedic refusal to get involved. The two Devils who tackle each other instead of going after Wendel. Charlie Bourgeois dropping the gloves, then quickly changing his mind.

Each one of those guys knew what they had to do. And when the time came, each one hesitated and backed off. Can you blame them? After all, it's easy to talk about doing the right thing. It's a lot harder to actually do it.

Not for Wendel Clark. Not this time.

He sees the play unfold, watches Gilmour go down. He takes one look over his shoulder to see where the linesmen are. He doesn't even break stride.

No questions. No hesitation.

Most people will tell you that Clark heads straight for McSorely, but that's not quite true. If you watch closely, you'll see that he takes a slightly wider angle than he needs to. That's because McSorley has turned slightly from the impact, and Clark doesn't want to come in from the side. He wants him to make sure Marty sees him coming.

Bob Cole's call is one of the most memorable of his career, one that Leaf fans still know by heart:
"Gilmour was hit inside the line by McSorley, and this is going to draw Clark and McSorley into a ruckus. They're throwing punches, and OH! CLARK IS NAILING MCSORLEY!"
The fight is an instant classic. Clark connects early with one of the hardest punches in hockey history. McSorely, to his credit, absorbs the shot and stays on his feet, although the punch decimated half of his face as captured in a memorable front page photo the next day. The two trade shots in a marathon bout, Clark dominating early and McSorley gaining an advantage later once he slithers out of his overly-loose jersey (a cowardly trick that almost every tough guy of the day used, even Probert, but never Clark).

Todd Gill and Dave Taylor fight on the undercard. Gilmour challenges the Kings bench. McSorley challenges a cameraman. Pat Burns challenges Barry Melrose. The Garden fans go insane.

If you saw the game, you don't need me to tell you what it was like. You remember. You'll always remember that moment.

The moment that Wendel Clark looked across the ice at a fallen teammate and did exactly what a captain should do. The moment that Wendel Clark dropped the gloves with a giant and taught him a lesson about respecting the Maple Leaf. The moment that somehow managed to perfectly capture everything that Wendel Clark meant to a team, a city, and generation of fans.

The top Wendel Clark moment of all-time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wendel Wrapup - Best of the Comments

We're closing in on 48 hours until Wendel Clark's number goes up. If you're lucky enough to be at the ACC Saturday night, you know what you need to do. If you wake up with a functioning voice box on Sunday, you weren't loud enough.

If you haven't already, be sure to check out 1967er's ongoing Wendel Clark series over at PPP. So far he's covered Young Clark, Captain Clark and Returning Clark . Check out my Wendel Clark Facts fanpost while you're at it.

In addition to posting Wendel Moment #1 some time tomorrow afternoon, I'm hoping to have a surprise guest post in the new few days. You may not know this person, but you know their work, and let's just say that their Wendel Fan credentials are in excellent order. Stay tuned.

Thanks again to everyone who took in part in the Top 17 countdown via their feedback. Reader comments are my favorite part of blogging, and the Wendel posts brought out some instant classics. Highlights included:

"Wendel Clark is hard as fuck. Even to this day I'd still be scared to make eye contact with him, for fear that he'd punchasize my eye through the back of my skull, isn't that right former Edmonton Oiler and notable racist Marty McSorley?" - Jeanshorts And Baggedmilk

"Even for a rival's fan, Clark was impossible to hate. He was the ideal player: 'On the seventh day, God made Clark. And he was good.' " - Dominik

"I love that Wendel just creates such havoc in this video. He completely destroys Stu Grimson's whole world. Everything around the Reaper collapsed and all he could think about was how he could get kicked out of the game without fighting Wendel, but still looking tough." - Archimedes

"The last time I watched this (the All Heart video) in the morning, I dropkicked two people and one dog on my way to the subway. I only watch it in the evening now." - Daoust

"We all know what a Gordie Howe hattrick is. After this game, I tried to get everyone to officially acknowledge the Wendel Clark Hattrick; Two goals and a goalie decapitation." - Shaner

"I keep thinking I know how awesome Wendel is, but then you post these clips and I realize, he's twice as awesome as I originally thought." - blurr1974

"I loved the way Wendel used to fight. Never content to just win the fight, he tried to kill the guy and then swallow his soul." - The Ghost of Kordic

"As a general rule of thumb, I think if you are in a fight with someone, and their first punch knocks your lid about 40 feet in the've made an awful, awful mistake." - Anonymous

"If Earth is ever discovered by extra-terrestrial intelligences, it will be because they followed the trail of shockwaves _still_ emanating from this hit. My guess is that primitive, superstitious lifeforms somewhere near the Sirius systsm are forming doomsday religions, foretelling the day when a jealous, displeased Wendel Clark similarly body checks non-believers." - Dan

Wendel Moment #2 - Game Six

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

On May 27, 1993, the Leafs faced off with the Kings in game six of their conference final. The Leafs lead the series 3-2, and were a win away from meeting the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final. It would turn out to be the most memorable game of a generation for Leaf fans.

With the score tied 1-1 after one period, the Leafs took the lead in the second when Wendel Clark drove to the Kings net on a solo rush and slipped a backhand past Kelly Hrudey. But the Kings stormed back, scoring three times and taking a 4-2 lead into the second intermission. Playing their 20th game in 39 nights, the Leafs were flat. The tank was empty.

The Kings had the lead, the home crowd, and all the momentum. The Leafs had a captain who wasn't done yet.

Midway into the third Clark brought the Leafs to within one on another solo effort, this time storming into the Kings zone and using Marty McSorley as a screen to beat Kelly Hrudey on a long wrist shot. That set the stage for the final minutes, with both teams trading scoring chances. With 90 seconds to play, Leafs goalie Felix Potvin headed to the bench.

Clark, the sixth attacker, stepped onto the ice and crossed the Kings blue line. Doug Gilmour spotted him and, realizing the Kings hadn't picked up Clark coming off the bench, delivered a long tape-to-tape pass. Wendel was still well out, at least 35 feet, but he had time to get off a clean shot.

Here's the thing about those next few moments: There wasn't a single Leaf fan anywhere who had any doubt about what was about to happen.

It was a strange feeling. Leaf fans live for doubt. It's all we know. Deep down, under all the bravado and chest-thumping, we're a miserable and pessimistic bunch. We've been kicked by the hockey gods so many times that we've learned to always expect the worst. We know that if something bad can happen, it will. And then it will get worse. It always does.

Not this time. As soon as Clark wound up, we knew where the puck was going.

Wrist shot. Top shelf. Tie game.

Clark had recorded a playoff hat trick, virtually on his own. There were no goal mouth tap-ins, no accidental deflections, no easy rebounds to shovel home. Just three individual efforts, each one buried with more authority than the last. Wendel Clark had single-handedly dragged the Leafs to within one goal of a trip to the finals.

Everyone knows what happened next.

Glenn Anderson. Kerry Fraser. Wayne Gretzky. The end.

One of the (many) things that fans of other teams don't understand about Leaf fans is why we're still so angry about the Fraser non-call. After all, who's to say the Leafs would have scored on the powerplay? Who's to say the Kings wouldn't have won anyways? Bad calls happen, it's been 15 years, just let it go.

This is why we're still angry. This is why we know that non-call cost us a spot in the Finals. Because anyone who watched that game knows, without question, that Wendel Clark was going to score the winner. The Kings couldn't stop him that night. Nobody could have.

Forget the powerplay. The Leafs just needed one more even-stregth shift. And they didn't get it, because when it came time to make the biggest call of his career, Kerry Fraser choked on his whistle.

After a career of false starts and bad backs and bad luck and terrible teams and blood and bruises, after all the hours on the trainer's table, after all the fights with guys twice his size, Wendel Clark finally had a chance to play for the Stanley Cup, and he responded with arguably the greatest game ever played by a Maple Leaf.

This was his moment. This was what everything had been building towards. And Kerry Fraser took it away.

So yeah, we're still a little cranky about that.

But we'll move on. The Leafs lost game seven despite two more goals from Clark (including the Blues and Sharks series, Clark scored a pair of goals in three straight game sevens). They made one more run to the conference finals the next year, lost to the Canucks, and then dealt Clark to the Nordiques.

They never got as close to the Cup again. Some days we wonder if they ever will.

But the one time they did, their captain put a tired team on his back and almost won the game on his own. It was the most memorable highlight of a long career.

Except for one...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Down Goes Brown joins Sports Federation

Some site news to share this morning. The Score is announcing the launch of a network of blogs they're calling Sports Federation, and Down Goes Brown will be representing the Barilkosphere.

As a result, you'll notice a few changes:

  • A nifty new header that includes a dropdown to other sites in the network.

  • A new, wider layout. I needed to do that to make room for the...

  • ... ads. I know, I know, but they shouldn't be too bad. There are only three: the banner at the top, a square one on the side, and a small .exe that's currently installing itself on your system and will open 20 popups windows each time you start your browser. Like I said, no big deal.
If anyone runs into any problems with the new layout (slow page loads, content not appearing, etc), please let me know via e-mail or in the comments section.

Other than that, nothing changes around here. You'll still see the same sort of content you've always seen. We'll keep working every bit as hard to bring you the best Leafs writing on the web. It's just that now, a faceless corporation will be making money off it.

Wait, what?

Maybe I should go read that contract again. In the meantime, feel free to check out some of the network's other hockey blogs. They are:
(You know, just in case you find yourself wondering "Hm, what would that giant Nickelback ad look like on a different site?")

Wendel Moment #3 - The Bruce Bell Hit

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

Wendel Clark threw a lot of devastating body checks in his career. A lot.

For example, this one and this one and this one and this one and... well, you get the idea.

So if your name is Bruce Bell and you're on the receiving end of what everyone agrees is "easily the most devastating Wendel Clark body check ever", well, you can just go ahead and assume that things aren't going to work out very well for you.

Warning: Do not let small children watch the clip below.

This hit, from the 1986-87 season, did two things:
  1. Sent official notice to the rest of the league that this Wendel Clark kid in Toronto was scary as hell
  2. Effectively ended the career of Bruce Bell
That last part is actually sort of sad, since unlike most Wendel victims Bell wasn't guilty of anything other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once considered a promising offensive defenceman, Bell was never the same after this check and was out of the NHL within a few years.

Three things to enjoy about this clip:
  • Notice how Bell never, ever looks up to see the hit coming. The story, possibly apocryphyl, goes that Blues goalie Greg Millen was yelling "You're fine, you're good, all clear" right up until impact. Further proof that nobody should ever listen to anything Millen says concerning the Maple Leafs.

  • The way Charlie Bourgeois shows up and reluctantly drops his gloves, until Wendel points down at Bell and Bourgeois backs off. Most people assume Clark says something along the lines of "Hey, we can't fight, this guy needs medical attention". I like to imagine that he actually said "You're next".

  • The old-school stretcher treatment. I'm all for players having access to the best possible medical care, but I really think we need to go back to the days when players carried the stretchers themselves.
So there you have it -- the biggest Wendel Clark hit of all-time. That, my friends, is called getting your Bell rung!

(If by "Bell", you mean "internal organs" and by "rung", you mean "liquified".)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wendel Moment #4 - Welcome Home

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

On March 13, 1996, Cliff Fletcher pulled the trigger on what would turn out to be the most controversial trade of his career. The Leafs sent Kenny Jonsson, two prospects and their first round pick (used to select Roberto Luongo) to the Islanders for Matthieu Schneider and Wendel Clark.

If the trade rings a bell, it may be because the Toronto media insists on bringing it up every day as an example of the sort of terrible, awful, gut-the-future trades that Leafs in general and Cliff Fletcher in particular were guilty of over the years. We'll leave the debate for another day, except to point out that Jonsson only mananged one above-average season and was out of the NHL by 30, and that the "veteran" Schneider is still going strong twelve years later, and that Clark scored 30 goals the next season in Toronto, and that the Leafs would have never drafted Luongo because they still had Potvin, and ... (Begins breathing heavily into a paper bag.)

Sorry, where was I?

Oh right. Wendel Clark.

Needless to say, Clark's first game back in Toronto became the hottest ticket in town. The Leafs were hosting the Dallas Stars, but the opponent was an afterthought. Actually, everything else was an afterthought too. Wendel was back. That was all you needed to know.

With the Gardens faithful chanting "Wendel, Wendel" from the moment the doors opened, the atmosphere was electric. The noise level soared when the Leafs took the ice, kept on soaring through the anthems, and seemed to peak when Wendel hopped off the bench for his first shift. And then, just like you knew he would, Wendel stormed to the net, took a cross-ice feed and fired it into the back of the net.


It wouldn't be an exageration to call the reaction to Wendel's goal the loudest moment in Maple Leaf Gardens regular season history. It might be exageration to call it the loudest moment in Toronto sports history, period. Then again, it might not.

The thing that still stands out about that moment was Wendel's reaction. Leaf fans were used to the stoic Wendel. Whether he'd just finished a fight or a scored a goal, he always seemed a little bored. An especially big goal might get a fist pump, and maybe, just maybe, a brief facial expression. Then it was back to the ho-hum, just-another-day-at-the-farm face.

Not this time. When the red light went on and the fans erupted, Wendel burst into an enormous, ear-to-ear grin. It was the happiest we'd ever seen him. It was probably the happiest we'd ever seen any Leaf. Wendel Clark was home.

So go ahead and pretend that Kenny Jonsson was a superstar and not a one-year wonder. Keep writing the same tired column about Roberto Luongo every few weeks. Mention "draft schmaft" every chance you get.

For at least one night, one moment, it was the best trade the Leafs ever made.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wendel Moment #5 - Clark vs. Probert

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

In the early 90s, Bob Probert was the NHL's bad boy. Generally regarded as the undisputed heavyweight champion, the Red Wings enforcer made headlines for his battles on and off the ice. When he wasn't handing out brutal beatings to unfortunate opponents, he was waging a losing struggle with drugs, alcohol and the law.

In the spring of 1989, Probert was arrested on drug charges and ordered deported from the United States. As a result, he could no longer travel to Canada because leaving the U.S. would mean being denied entry on his return. So for almost four years, Probert remained in the States, playing only in American cities and staying home whenever the Wings traveled to Canada.

Then came news on December 8, 1992 that Probert had been cleared for travel. As luck would have it, the Wings were scheduled to play in Toronto the next night. The reinstatement was major news, getting front page coverage in Canadian newspapers and adding an unmistakable element of drama to the game. Suddenly, a decent mid-season game had become the focus of the entire hockey world.

Bob Probert, the NHL's heavyweight champion, was returning to his native Canada after four years in exile. It was a Hallmark moment, an epic feel-good story of perseverance and redemption.

Unfortunately, Wendel Clark didn't get the script, and he decided to welcome Probert back to Canada in his own special way.

This wasn't the typical Wendel Clark fight that ends with Clark in the penalty box and the other guy in a pine crate. Probert took his shots and stayed on his feet, which is more than most Wendel opponents would be able to say. If, you know, you unwired their jaw long enough for them to talk.

No, this was just Wendel Clark sending a simple message to Probert: You might be the heavyweight champ in every other arena. Just not in The Gardens. Not in my house.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wendel Moment #6 - The Final Ovation

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

In January of 2000, Wendel Clark was released by the Blackhawks after an ineffective 13-game stint. He was immediately signed as a free agent by the Maple Leafs, a young and talented team looking for a little veteran guidance.

This wasn't the wild young Wendel on the 1980s, mullet flowing in the breeze as he pummeled yet another Norris rival into the ice. It wasn't even the savvy veteran of the 90s, with the bald spot and permanent playoff beard. This was the 2000 version of Wendel -- a proud veteran, but clearly on his last legs.

His third stint with the Leafs wasn't especially memorable. He played 20 regular season games, managing only four points and one lackluster scrap with Brad Isbister. He was a healthy scratch some nights, an unhealthy one many others. When the playoffs began, there was no spot in the lineup for Wendel Clark.

That changed late in the first round series against the Senators. Looking for an emotional lift with the series tied, Pat Quinn inserted Clark into the lineup for game five. The Leafs won in overtime, then wrapped up the series in game six with Wendel scoring the final goal.

The Leafs opened the second round at home against the Devils, and Clark found himself on the third line with Darcy Tucker and Dmitri Khristich. The line would be the Leafs' best on the night, with Clark and Tucker wreaking havoc at both ends of the ice. The line scored early in the third when Clark set up Tucker for what would hold up as the eventual winner.

Late in the third, Clark picked up the puck in his own zone and started out on an end-to-end rush. He barreled through the neutral zone, steamed over the blueline and let loose one of his patented laser beam wrist shots. The shot beat Martin Brodeur clean -- but clanged off the iron. Clark headed to the bench, head down, cursing himself for missing out on a key scoring chance.

And then a funny thing happened.

With the game paused for a television time out, the crowd buzz didn't die off. It got louder. Slowly but surely, the ACC came to life. As the center ice scoreboard showed a closeup of Clark on the bench, people started standing up. The suits in the platinums, the real fans in the upper level, old-timers who'd seen every Clark game, kids who were seeing their very first -- everyone.

The standing ovation lasted through the commercial break, and when they dropped the puck for the ensuing face-off the fans ignored it and kept on cheering. There was no PA announcer begging for noise, no instructions on the scoreboard -- just one of those spontaneous moments that happens all too rarely in pro sports.

The ovation wasn't about the end-to-end rush or hitting the post or even an assist on the game winner. It wasn't about the Devils or game one or the 2000 season.

It was about 19,500 fans realizing that they had just seen something special, probably for the last time.

It was about 19,500 fans saying "thanks".

Clark went on to play three more games in the series before being sidelines with a back injury. The Leafs lost the series, and Clark retired in June.

There weren't many memorable moments in Clark's final stint with the Leafs. But one makes our list -- the night that Leaf fans took one final opportunity to pay tribute to their favorite player.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wendel Moment #7 - How do you say "knockout" in Russian?

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

Remember Moment #14, when Wendel Clark decided to send a little payback Bryan Marchment's way?

What did we learn that day, children?

  1. Do no try to cheapshot Wendel Clark
  3. If you decide to ignore rules #1&2, at least make sure you get the job done
  4. Do not skate up to Wendel Clark like you want to fight, because he wants to fight too and he's better at it than you are
  5. If Wendel Clark rams both gloves and his stick down your throat, curl up in a ball on the ice and stay there. Forever.
Marchment, as big a dummy as he was, at least managed to get #5 right. Slava Fetisov wasn't so lucky.

Clark and Fetisov had a history going back to a game at the Gardens that included the infamous Burke/Laforest fight. Not surprisngly, Clark got the better of that exchange, but out of respect for the unstable international dynamics of the day he was kind enough to let Fetisov live.

This is the part where a normal man would give thanks for the act of mercy, then skate away and never be seen again. Not Fetisov.

No, instead he decided it would be a good idea to even the score in a game in New Jersey. Fetisov, widely considered one of the dirtiest players in hockey at the time, went after Clark's leg on one of the more blatant attempted hits in recent memory, practically diving into Clark's knee as he cut across the ice. Clark barely managed to leap out of the way of a potentially career-ending cheapshot. (Update: as 1967ers and Dan point out in the comments, Fetisov did get a piece of Clark's knee, putting him on the shelf for several weeks.)

Now if you had just tried to cripple Wendel Clark and failed, what is the last thing you would do? If you said "skate up to him like you wanted to fight", you would be correct.

Q: What was going through Fetisov's head on this play?
A: Wendel Clark's fist

Four things about this clip:
  • Listen to the Devils announcers describe Fetisov's attempted knee-on-knee as a great hit during the replay at 1:00, even though Fetisov is literally sliding on his belly during his follow-through. These guys make the North Stars announcers from the David Mackey fight sound objective.

  • I love the way Clark KO's Fetisov with one punch, then casually looks around as if to say "OK, who's next?" He's not even remotely worried.

  • Fetisov's half-hearted attempt to get back into the fray is funny enough, but watch how passionately the linesman is talking to him. He looks like a harried suicide negotiator pleading with a guy on a window ledge.

  • Finally, in one of the great "hold me back" moments in NHL history, watch as two Devils players skate in, realize it's Wendel Clark, and then grab each other instead. This kills me. They literally grab onto each other and hope that nobody will notice and Wendel will leave them alone. I could watch that a hundred times and still find it funny.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wendel Moment #8 - Ho hum, Clark just killed some guy

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

I have a dilemma.

On the one hand, any list of Wendel Clark's greatest moments has to include some of his patented knockouts. On the other hand, there are so many to choose from, and they all start to blend together after a while. Let's face it, if I included every fight that involved Wendel Clark destroying somebody, this list would be a top 17,000.

Put it this way: I ran a search for "wendel +clark +leafs +fight +ko +beating +'opponent ends up twitching on ice' ", and Google came back with "Too many results. Please try something with fewer results, such as 'porn'."

So choosing just one generic beatdown to represent all the others is a daunting task. But for whatever reason, this one against David Mackey always stuck with me.

By the way, for pure comedy purposes be sure to check out this link to the exact same fight as called by the North Stars play-by-play team. Even as Mackey's corpse is being dragged off the ice, they still insist he did pretty well and can't figure out why the fans are cheering.

Incidentally, the Mackey fight is often confused with a separate North Stars scrap vs. Bob Brooke, which is the infamous fight where Clark ends up on top of the guy and beats him to death. Here's a video of that fight, apparently rendered on a Commodore 64:

Note the way Clark gives him a few mild shots, almost daring him to take a swing. When Brooke does, Clark is on him right away. By the third punch, Brooke's widow had already remarried and moved on with her life.

And finally, here's a fight with the similarly named David Maley. Different guy. Different team. Same result.

Blog fight!

For those of you who read this site but not Pension Plan Puppets (i.e. my wife -- hi honey, don't forget to pick up some milk on the way home), that site is currently featuring a lively debate on the upcoming Brian Burke hiring. MF37 from Bitter Leaf Fan is leading the anti-Burke charge, and I'm representing the pro-Burke faction.

Here's a photo taken during the debate:

Needless to say, I'm the one on the left. Why is MF37 wearing another team's jersey? No idea. Personally, between this and not liking Brian Burke, I question his loyalties.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wendel Moment #9 - "You got to be a man to play this game!"

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

Here's a good example of why you shouldn't admire your own pass when Wendel Clark is nearby. This is from game five of the first round of the 1995 playoffs.

Note on the replay the way that Chelios's body braces for the hit even though he never sees it coming. That's how hard Wendel Clark bodychecks were -- they sent a shockwave of force that impacted several seconds before the actual hit.

I also enjoy the way that Chelios has to stop and check to see if his face is still there.

Now I have a theory about this hit, and I want you to hear me out. As everyone knows, Chris Chelios is still active in the NHL 13 years later. He's 46 years old, but shows no indication of retiring soon. He doesn't skate well, but he still gets by thanks largely to a serious mean streak.

Old. Mean. Very slow. No longer seems to age.

I think Wendel Clark killed Chris Chelios with this hit, and we've been seeing Zombie Chris Chelios ever since.

It makes sense, doesn't it? Zombies are often the result of somebody being exposed to unspeakable evil, and we know Chelios spent several years with the Habs. I think the league should look into this, because it would seriously taint the Red Wings recent Cup wins if they've been using a zombie player.

Also, somebody should probably stab Zombie Chelios in the heart with a wooden stake. Just to be safe.

Bring on Burke

I for one welcome our new
general manager overlord
So Brian Burke is out in Anaheim, and presumably on his way to Toronto.


Not everyone is thrilled with the news, but I say welcome aboard.

There's no doubt that Burke has been overhyped over the past year. His record of success as a GM has been mixed, and he won a Cup with a roster that had been mostly built by Bryan Murray. But while he may not be the perfect candidate, he's a pretty darn good one. And he's certainly the best one available right now.

Cliff Fletcher has done a generally good job rebuilding the Leafs, but he's not the long-term answer at GM. And as much as I like Cliff, he doesn't get the Colangelo Treatment from MLSE. That means that Peddie and his minions still have their grubby claws on this team.

With Burke in town, that will end. Peddie will go back to selling condos, and Burke will have full control of the hockey side. If he doesn't, we've been told over and over again, he's not coming. So let him come.

Brian Burke will be the guy who kills off Richard Peddie once and for all. That's good enough for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wendel Moment #10 - Clark debuts as captain

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

Expectations weren't high for the Maple Leafs heading into 1991 season opener. The team was coming off yet another disappointing season and wasn't expected to contend for much of anything.

There was reason for optimism, though. New GM Cliff Fletcher was on board, and had swung a blockbuster deal to acquire Grant Fuhr and Glenn Anderson in the off-season. And the team had a new captain, having bestowed the honour on Wendel Clark in August.

In his first game as captain in Toronto, Clark single-handedly dominated the Red Wings, both physically and on the scoresheet. He notched three goals and added two assists in an 8-5 Leafs victory. Combined with his three points in the season opener in Montreal, that gave Wendel eight points in two games to start the season.

The game was a wild one. The Wings peppered 50 shots on Fuhr, and the two teams combined for 13 goals plus two more that were disallowed thanks to the league's wonderful new "in the crease" rule. Former Leaf Allan Bester even made an appearance for the Wings.

This game would serve as one of the few highlights of the the 1991-92 season (the other being the acquisition of Doug Gilmour in January). But it served notice to the league that Wendel Clark was back, and he was angry. With Gilmour and Pat Burns on the way, Leaf fans would soon find out just how much damage Clark could do.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wendel Moment #11 - Clark vs. Neely

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

When I was a kid growing up, there were three hypothetical fights that everyone debated endlessly even though we knew they could never actually happen:

  • Batman vs. Superman
  • Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan
  • Wendel Clark vs. Cam Neely

Remember a few months ago when they turned on the Large Hadron Collider and some people were genuinely worried that it could cause the universe to implode onto itself? That's what people thought might happen if Clark and Neely ever fought.

Cam Neely, of course, was a monster badass. He spent most of his career throwing crushing bodychecks, scoring whenever he wanted to, and destroying anyone foolish enough to drop the gloves with him. He was completely unstoppable.

In short, he was a poor man's Wendel Clark.

If Clark and Neely ever did meet, the theory went, the resulting fight would include so much pent-up awesomeness that it would blind anyone who looked directly at it, kill anyone on the ice at the time, and probably last until the earth was swallowed by the sun.

Or, you know, it could be a two punch fight that ended with Neely turtling for the first and only time in his career. One or the other.

Wendel Clark just kicked your ass, Seabass!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wendel Moment #12 - Curtis Joseph takes a Wendel Clark slapshot to the face

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

Imagine you're Curtis Joseph.

It's May of 1993. You're the toast of the hockey world, after leading the Blues to a shocking round one sweep over the heavily-favored Blackhawks, and following that up with several spectacular games against the Leafs.

But now it's game seven, and you've run out of magic. The Leafs have jumped out to a 4-0 lead after one period, the Gardens is rocking, and you know that your dream season is about to come to a crushing end. Also, Mike Foligno recently roundhouse kicked you in the head. So these are tough times.

But take comfort. At least you know that now, at probably the lowest point of your career, things can not possibly get any OH SWEET JESUS HERE COMES WENDEL CLARK.

I think we all remember what happened next.

A few thoughts:
  • Let's face it, we all know Wendel did that on purpose.

  • On a related note, this was the only actual slapshot Wendel took in his entire NHL career.

  • If you listen closely, I think you can actually hear Cujo's goalie mask say "fuck this, I quit" as it leaps off of his head and makes a break for the exit.

  • Joseph's attempt to shrug it off as no big deal is actually sort of badass, or at least it would have been if Curt Giles hadn't completely ruined it by rushing over to give him a hug. That part kills me.

  • My favorite part of the entire sequence is the MLG crowd reaction: an excited buzz as they realize Clark has a chance at a hat trick, followed by momentary confusion when they see that he didn't score, followed by delirious cheers when they realize he's chosen to murder the other team's goalie instead.
I assume this incident was meant as a warning to Kelly Hrudey to not make any saves against Clark in round three -- a warning he wisely took to heart.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wendel Moment #13 - The "All Heart" Video

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

OK, technically speaking this is neither a "moment" nor something that Wendel Clark had anything to do with.

I don't care. It's my list, and I'm finding a spot for the greatest youtube video of all-time.

Every Leaf fan should bookmark this masterpiece, and watch it every morning to get them pumped up for the day ahead. The video currently has just under 700,000 views, which is less than the current population of the world which means it is not enough. This video should be shown to school children in third-world countries to teach them what can happen if they aspire to be completely awesome.

I haven't forgotten my promise to some day to a scene-by-scene breakdown of the entire video. That post will include screen caps, background research, be 40,000 words long and will officially be the post that makes the other Barilkosphere sites start phasing me out of the community.

But for now, let's just sit back and enjoy.

I am now ready to go bench press my car.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wendel Moment #14 - Life (and Near-Death) of Bryan

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

Let's cut right to the point: in the early 90's, Bryan Marchment was a punk who needed a good ass-kicking.

He was notorious for his cheap shots, especially his patented knee-on-knee hits that would put guys on the shelf for months. Short of Ulf Samuelsson, he was probably the biggest prick in the NHL. To make matters worse, in 1991 Marchment started wearing a full facemask to protect a broken jaw. Of course, he kept running guys.

Well, one night Wendel decided he had seen enough. After Wendel took an innocent poke at Steve Larmer, Marchment figured he'd glide in for a cheapshot.

Bad idea.

Remember that line from The Usual Suspects: "How do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?" Well, here's the NHL version: "How do you cheapshot Wendel Clark? What if he sees you coming?"

Wendel saw Marchment coming, decided he looked undernourished, and fed him both fists and half his hockey stick.

The fun wasn't over yet. As players piled on and Marchment headed for the hills, Steve Smith wound up tangled up with Wendel. The Leafs captain gave Smith a dirty look, which caused his face to explode.

A few other things to watch for in this video:
  • A classic early example of Jim Hughson's fake "oh, the horror!" routine that he now does during every hockey fight, at 4:30.

  • Doug Gilmour, playing one of his first games as a Leaf, taking down Grimson with an open-ice tackle at 4:03.

  • The organist breaking into the theme song from "Dallas" for reasons that I'm sure made sense to him at the time.

  • Grimson doing the all-time greatest "hold me back while I pretend to want to fight" routine, essentially skating all over the ice trying to get Wendel, who just stands there watching him. Interesting side note: in some states, trying to chase down Wendel Clark for a fight is legally considered a suicide attempt.

  • A Bob Halkidis sighting!

  • Keith Brown playing tough guy on the bench. Hey Keith, Mike Peluso wants to know where all that toughness was last time?
This incident lead to the NHL forcing all teams to post a warning in their dressing room: Do not cheapshot Wendel Clark, because he will hunt you down and kill you.

Unfortunately, as we'll see later on this list, they forgot to have that translated into Russian.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wendel Moment #15 - Might want to watch that five-hole, Eddie

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

The Leafs opened the 1994 playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. After taking an impressive 5-1 win in game one, the Leafs were in for a much tougher night in game two. The two original six rivals played a classic. Ed Belfour and Felix Potvin were locked in a goaltending duel, and the game was scoreless after regulation.

Two minutes into the first overtime session, the Leafs were controlling the play in the Blackhawks zone when the puck found its way back to Todd Gill at the point. The veteran defenceman, never exactly known as a sniper, fired a harmless looking shot on net. Despite having a clear view of the long-distance shot, Belfour somehow managed to let it slip through his five-hole for the game-winner.

Wait a second, what does any of this have to do with Wendel Clark? Nothing. Or so it seemed.

As soon as the puck crossed the goal line, the Gardens exploded. So did Belfour, who immediately went after the officials, flailing his arms and tossing aside his equipment. Fans and broadcasters wondered what had set him off.

Then we saw the replay.

As Gill winds up for his shot, Belfour comes out to challenge him. He has the angle covered. He sees the shot all the way. As he drops to his butterfly to steer the shot aside, his form is absolutely perfect.

And then, just as the puck arrives, Wendel reaches out with his stick from several feet away and barely, just barely, brushes the top of Belfour's goal stick.

The little tap is just enough to cause Belfour's stick to pop off the ice for a fraction of a second, just as Gill's shot arrives. Nobody notices. As Belfour goes spastic, Clark innocently skates off to join the celebration.

Belfour, of course, would go on to star for the Leafs a decade later. So would another Norris division goalie, who had his own bad luck with Wendel at playoff time... but we'll save that for later in the list.

Wendel Moment #15 is Clark's barely perceptible role in the funniest (and, OK, cheapest) Maple Leafs playoff win of all time.

(Side note: I would have this rated higher, but for the life of me I can't find a clip of the goal online. If anyone has one, please post a link. It's worth watching just to see Belfour erupt.)

Update: Six months later, here's the clip.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wendel Moment #16 - Clark vs Peluso

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

Obviously any list of Wendel Clark highlights is going to include a scrap or two. For Moment #16, let's go with a Norris Division bout that serves as a good summary of Wendel's work in this area.

Here's Clark vs Hawks heavyweight Mike Peluso at the Gardens, from October 20, 1990.

A few things I enjoy about this fight:

  • Peluso is already flat on his back by the time they can even get the camera switched over to it. This happened in at least 50% of Wendel Clark fights.

  • Listen to how loud the Gardens gets when Wendel drops the gloves. Keep in mind, this isn't a playoff game -- it's October. What would need to happen these days for the ACC to get that loud during an early season game? An announcement of free shrimp cocktails for the 100-level? Howard Berger falling headfirst out of the pressbox? Jason Blake back-checking? God I miss the Gardens.

  • After KOing him with one punch, Clark falls on top of Peluso and continues to pummell him. And yet two Blackhawk teammates are standing a few feet away and don't make a move to help. (You can see this especially well on the replay after the 1:00 mark.)

    One of them at least manages to do a semi-convincing job of pretending to be engaged with a linesman, while the other (wearing #4, which I think would be Keith Brown) just flat-out decides not to get involved. You can almost hear them muttering "Well, better him than me, we'll send his widow a canned ham".
The lesson, as always: Do not try to fight Wendel Clark.

Sadly, Peluso's heroic attempt to serve as a cautionary example to other NHL players failed... as we'll see several times as we count down our list.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Top 17 Wendel Clark Moments

Wendel's gloves are off.
That means a man just died.

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours it's former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's greatest moments. We've gone through all the goals, hits and fights. Since the original plan of running a top 17,000 Wendel Moments series seems slightly over-ambitious, we've narrowed it down to a Top 17.

Today we kick off the list with a fitting first moment.

Wendel Moment #17 - The Leafs pick Clark first overall in the 1985 draft

The Leafs found themselves with the first overall pick in 1985 for the first and only time in the modern era. They narrowed their choices down to winger Craig Simpson and defenceman Wendel Clark.

The Leafs were no doubt leaning towards Simpson since this was the Ballard era and they screwed everything up, but luckily he publicly refused to play for the Leafs. So instead of being drafted by Toronto, living in the greatest city in the world and having a shot at becoming a hero to Leaf Nation, Simpson went second overall and played in Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Buffalo. Good call, Craig!

So instead the Leafs turned to Clark, a Kelvington farmboy who patrolled the blueline for the WHL's Saskatoon Blades. The scouting report on Clark was that he wasn't especially big and didn't skate well, but was a ferocious hitter with a laser wrist shot, an unmatched work ethic and a wicked-awesome mullet. Called a "throwback" by Blades fans, Clark seemed like the perfect choice to try to lead the Leafs out of the WAHL darkest days in franchise history.

The Leafs converted Clark to the wing, and set him loose on the NHL. The rest is history... and we'll be counting down the best of that history in the days leading up to November 22.