Good Evening all! Tonight's blog is about something that has really been bothering me recently. As you may know, I am a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. And as a Leafs fan it has been rather tough the the majority of my life listening to fans of other teams repeatedly bring up the whole "When was the last time the Leafs won the Cup?" quote, while watching teams like Montreal win a Cup every 10 years or so. In present day with the Leafs rebuilding it becomes even tougher to listen to, but I manage to hold my own and let it be known that through thick and thin, good teams and bad, Stanley Cup or no Stanley Cup, the Leafs are my team. But what happened on the night of Saturday November 22, 2008 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, had even me questioning my loyalty.
On a night when the Montreal Canadiens were retiring the number of a Hall of Fame goalie, who won multiple Vezina Trophy's and Stanley Cup's in Patrick Roy, the Leafs decided to counter by raising to the rafters, the jersey of a player who had a total of 286 points in a Leafs jersey, Wendell Clark!! Oh sure, it was quite cute how the folks at the ACC gave away novelty Clark mustaches to the kids (young and old), and everybody got to throw on their old Leafs jersey with 17 on the back, but really, raise his jersey? I mean if that isn't the ultimate sign of futility as an entire franchise, I don't know what is. He totalled more than 50 points only twice as a Leaf, and this was when the great players in the league like Mario Lemeiux and Wayne Gretzky were getting over triple that total. He scored more than 30 goals only twice, Did Clark appear to play with heart? Sure he did. Did he have some great fights? Absolutely! But did teams ever come to Toronto and say "I don't know how we are going to stop Wendell Clark?"? HELL NO!! Clark was a fun player to watch and a fan favorite on a team that had nothing else. Period. Was he as loved in Quebec? Or Tampa Bay? Or New York, when he played in those cities? No, because he was just another average player. What's next, Tie Domi gets consideration? I've seen plenty number 28 jerseys around Toronto the last 5 years. Does warrant him consideration?
I am a Leafs fan, and will remain a Leafs fan, but this has definitely hurt my ability to defend them as a good franchise in sports debates that happen oh so often. I think raising a jersey is a special thing for a professional athlete. Something that will be around for as long as the team exists. Is Wendell Clark's jersey what I want my children, and my childrens children, looking up and at and asking me to tell stories about? Not really. What would I tell them? He came from the WHL...he played left wing... he scored a couple of times... he passed the puck rarely... he had some nice bodychecks... he had some memorable fights... and he had a moustache. All in all doesn't seem to compete with the legends of Rocket Richard, or Bobby Orr, or Wayne Gretzky... or even Darryl Sittler!
But, at the end of the day, I am a Leafs fan, and so will be my children. Wendell Clark and all.