As a Toronto hockey fan born in the 70s, I idolized Wendel Clark. You'd be hard pressed to find a Toronto hockey fan born in the 70s who didn't. Here's something I wrote about Wendel almost 10 years ago.
I will never forget the 1985-86 post season when we swept the Chicago Black Hawks in three games. That was when my brothers and I first broke out the Diet Coke. You would have thought we had just won the cup. Wendel was our leader and a member of The Hound Line with Russ Courtnall and Gary Leeman. We took the St. Louis Blues to a seventh game before bowing out. We went just as deep the next season, too.
Wendel Clark scored the overtime winner in the greatest game I ever saw. My brother Ryan proudly wore his #17 jersey and we all suffered during his long periods of inactivity due to injuries. Clark was our guy and pound for pound the toughest player you'll ever see playing the game. Doug Gilmour remains my favourite Leaf, but Clark was the definitive Leaf.
Last night, I had an opportunity to meet #17. His new book Bleeding Blue is coming out, and there was a little get together at Maple Leaf Gardens to commemorate the occasion.
I got a photo and some time alone with him. We primarily discussed the fan-created All Heart tribute video I've been enjoying for the past decade. Wendel knows about it, Wendel loves it and I was able to fill him in on the origin thanks to some excellent sleuthing by Down Goes Brown. Wendel seemed genuinely interested and as humble as I'd heard.
After our five minute conversation, others wanted his attention. After four years of having such people I admire visit me for 60-120 minute one-on-one conversations in my house, I think I've become conditioned to expect that. But no, I chose not to invite Wendel to my house. I saved that imposition for Ken Reid.
I've had an advance copy of Bleeding Blue for some time now and I love the stories. It really is an ideal holiday gift for any Toronto hockey fan born in the 70s.