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


  1. Wow. That was amazing. Kudos to you good sir for preaching the word of Wendel.

  2. Awesome commentary, thank you. My first Leaf Captain was Dave Keon, #14 but for heart and soul you have to give Wendel the nod.

  3. Thanks for your commentary and the video. I may or may not watch your masterpiece three times a day, since I found it a few years ago.

    It is fans like you and DGB amongst the many others that crystallize the reason why I choose to be a sports fan, and why I chose to be and continue to be an unabashed fan of #17 Wendel Clark.

  4. Can you imagine if they were able to play a higher res version of this video at the ACC tonight?

    Wow. There wouldn't be a roof left.

  5. YOU, thanking us?

    You've got it all backwards.

    Thank YOU sir.

    I was just a child when Wendel was running roughshod, and while he was my favourite player at the time, I could never really appreciate him the way I do today. Watching "All Heart" connected me with the younger version of myself, re-seeing things I'd vaugely remembered but couldn't truly apperciate until now.

    Thank you sir, excellent work.

  6. They did a nice job tonight, but they could have done much better by just playing this video.

  7. You sir are a hero, you put together an astounding tribute to my favourite hockey player of all time and set it to my favourite song of all time. I cannot count the amount of times I have watched it and gotten goosebumps.
    Thank you.

  8. I appreciate your view of Wendel and your adoration of his skill and style and what he meant to every Maple Leaf fan. The beauty of his appeal was that you could watch him on TV and appreciate the guts and determination of a dedicated player who gave everything in every game. I loved it and cheered with all the rest of true ML fans.
    But let me tell you of my Leaf hero of long ago. It was a time before TV. When listening to my crystal radio thru a pillow speaker was the first way I learned about hockey. It was a time that Foster Hewitt brought to life this wonderful game and filled the heart of a young boy with the soaring ups and downs of my beloved Maple Leafs. Over the years the man I counted on was Sid Smith - the left winger on a line with Ted Kennedy and Todd Sloan. Whenever it was late in the game in a tight situation I waited for Foster to tell me their line was on the ice and my expectations immediately were raised to expect the tying or winning goal. I was rarely disappointed!
    I was extremely happy when Sid was made captain of my team when Kennedy retired but it was not a good year for him and I remember being very upset for him with the failure of the team that year.
    Many years later, my son took me to a game at the ACC and who was signing autographs but Sid Smith! I could not believe it! I lined up to talk to him and I'm afraid I bubbled like the 12 year old kid I used to be. I told him he was my favorite player and talked to him about Kennedy and Sloan and he was so patient with me while trying to sign more autographs. I'm sure I embarrassed myself in the eyes of the younger Leaf fans around me but this was a chance of a lifetime to meet a true hero in my memories of the Leaf history. I have no idea who the Leafs played that night or even if we won the game.
    Think of this Leaf fans - when Sid retired he had played 601 games, and had scored 186 goals with 183 assists. Doesn't sound like much now but at the time he retired, only three active players had scored more goals - Howe, Richard and Lindsay. Not bad company, eh?
    Sid passed away in 2004 about 2 years after I saw him for the first and last time.
    I have my autographed picture. It is on my desk. I have my memories. Go Leafs Go!

  9. That was a fantastic story Geez.

    In this day and age of 12 year old children posting swearwords all over the internet, it's a rare treat to happen across a genuine oldschool hero story like this.

    You describe a time before mp3's and TiVo and PVR's and youtube and live streaming... If you loved hockey and wanted to connect to your heroes, you had to tune into a crackly radio and let your imagination soar. This is why I have so much respect for what the old-timers have to say. They worked so much harder for access to the game than we do today.

    Well said. Big applause.

  10. What happened to the all heart video? Why was it taken down from YouTube and how can we find it now? Many Thanks!

    1. It's still there as far as I can tell?

    2. Really weird - the video does not show up when I search for it on my iPad (via the browser version or the pre-loaded you tube on my iPad), but I found it right away at top of list when searched for it on my computer. No safety/security settings set on my iPad as far as I can tell. Hmmmm. Regardless, many thanks - such a great tribute!