Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The story behind the Wendel Clark/Kevin Maguire fight in practice

We recently named Kevin Maguire our worst Leaf goon of all-time, based largely on his inexplicable decision to fight Wendel Clark during a practice.

What was he thinking? Why would you ever want to fight Clark if he was your teammate? Did Clark hit him so hard that he suffered retroactive brain damage to 30 seconds before?

Well, thanks to a wonderful thread over at Rough House Hockey of old Wendel Clark newspaper articles, now we know the background.

Push comes to punch for the Leafs tough-guy; Clark has first 'battle' of training camp

Rick Matsumoto Toronto Star. Toronto Star. Toronto, Ont.: Sep 16, 1986.

The hockey season officially got under way yesterday for Wendel Clark.

He got into his first punch-up of the season and, as has come to be expected in National Hockey League circles, he scored a decisive victory.

The Toronto Maple Leafs' prize rookie of last season accepted a challenge from another tough, young competitor, Kevin Maguire, and left the right winger, who spent the past two seasons with St. Catharines Saints, with a dandy black eye, a cut on the bridge of his nose and a severely-bruised ego.

He also left several ounces of blood on his sweater, as well as that of defenceman Bob McGill, who stepped in to break up the combatants.

The two clashed during the afternoon scrimmage at the Gardens. Clark took Maguire, who earned 273 penalty minutes in two seasons with the Saints, into the boards at Maguire's end of the ice. They exchanged shoves and glares as they shadowed each other back to Clark's end of the ice.

Suddenly, push turned to shove and the gloves came off. But, as many others found out the hard way last year, Maguire failed to get in the first punch.

Clark landed a haymaker flush on Maguire's right eye and, for all intents and purposes, the fight was over. Clark rained several more blows on Maguire's face and helmeted head and the latter swung back gamely, but the judges scored it a TKO for the Kelvington Crusher.

"That first one was the hardest punch I've ever been hit with," Maguire admitted later. "That was it. It was no contest after that. By the time I got my balance it was done."

Maguire, however, wasn't done. After being patched up, Maguire pulled on a clean jersey, returned to the scrimmage and immediately went after Clark.

"You don't let anyone get three or four clean shots at you and not want to even the score," said Maguire. "I was a bit off balance the first time. I'd have liked to have squared off with him, again, toe-to-toe."

However, Clark, who was nursing sore knuckles on his right hand, refused to drop his gloves the second time.

"I don't need to fight you, again," he could be heard shouting at Maguire as teammates interceded.

For the next few shifts the two combatants were prevented from being on the ice at the same time. Eventually, however, they found themselves face-to-face, again.

This time, the incident turned slightly ugly as Clark slapped at Maguire's menacingly raised stick with his own and Maguire reacted by jabbing Clark in the chest with his stick.

That's when Russ Courtnall jumped into the fray, put a head-lock on Maguire and wrestled him to the ice.

"First of all, Wendel had beaten him cleanly the first time, so there was no need to fight again," said Courtnall. "When you see guys with their sticks in the air you get a little scared. We can't afford to lose Clarkie to a stick."

Clark, who has shown he can play hockey as well as fight, shrugged off the incident as a natural occurrence in the annual battle to gain a big-league job.

The 19-year-old left winger, who scored 34 goals as a rookie, said he's not interested in prolonging the incident. That is, of course, unless Maguire renews hostilities the next time they meet on the ice.

"It's up to him," said Clark. "If he feels he has to do that to make the club, that's fine. I don't hold that against him. But if he takes a poke at me he's going to get poked back."

Maguire also emphasized that there were no personal feelings involved in the pugilistic exhibition.

"There was no intent behind the fight," he said. "It was just the way it happened. I'm not going to try to carve his eyes out or anything. His job is secure. Mine isn't. I've got to make my way onto the team. I've got to do what I can to do that."

While the combatants might not harbor deep animosity towards each another - and could possibly even become good friends if Maguire managed to make the Leafs - one thing is certain: They didn't go out to dinner together last night.
So on the one hand, now we know that the fight happened in Maguire's first stint with the Leafs, when he was a rookie trying to make a name for himself. That makes it a lot easier to understand.

On the other hand, we also know that:
  • Maguire got all his blood punched out
  • He actually returned to the ice and tried to fight Clark again, which has to be about the dumbest thing I've ever heard
  • He got taken down to the ice by Russ Courtnall.
So I'm going to go ahead and say that Maguire retains his crown as Worst Leaf Goon.

Now head over to the Rough House Hockey thread and start reading. Trust me, it's a goldmine for Clark fans.

I'm still reeling from finding out that Clark and Joey Kocur weren't really cousins.


  1. Courtnall? Yikes. That's like Stajan taking down Hollwegg...

  2. See, that's why Courtnall-for-Kordic was one of the worst trades of all time. Why trade an enforcer to get an enforcer?

  3. The Toronto Maple Leafs' prize rookie of last season accepted a challenge from another tough, young competitor, Kevin Maguire, and left the right winger...

    Initially, I read that as Kevin Mcguire being the prized rookie and was about to shake my head at both the Leafs' inability to draft in the 1980s and the media's bait and switch by purposely overrating another Leafs prospect to later lambaste Leafs fans for doing the same thing in the future.

    I was hoping you caught the MSM red-handed again. Next time!