Thanks for the memories, Wendel

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

Wendel Clark provided Maple Leafs fans with many reasons to cheer, but here is our top-10 list:

- The wild applause at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre when Clark put on the Leafs jersey on draft day 1985. The Leafs had finished last overall the year before and there was an immediate sense that this Saskatchewan farm boy was something special.

"When he put the sweater on, a few thousand people suddenly sounded like 20,000," assistant GM Gord Stellick said. "It told you a lot about Leaf fans, that they'd take to Wendel like that after the year we'd had."

- Clark's homespun take on a wild brawl with the Detroit Red Wings in his rookie year: "Just like a bar in Kelvington on a Saturday night."

- His check that flattened Bruce Bell of the Quebec Nordiques.

- How he dealt with a persistent reporter who kept asking why he wouldn't fight distant cousin Joey Kocur of the Wings. After the reporter's 10th attempt, Clark brought the conversation to an abrupt end by saying "would you like me to fight you?"

- The famous video of him strolling in front of the Gardens with his mullet and rural wardrobe.

"He was part of this city, like Toronto's son," Tie Domi said. "You saw him grow up, you saw him go away (twice), but you always knew he would come back."

- How you knew he was going to shoot, even on a 3-on-0.

- He took on all comers, from John Kordic to Slava Fetisov to Marty McSorley.

"He was 5-foot-10 but played like he was 6-foot-3," Steve Thomas said. "It showed the heart he had."

- The strong relationship with his parents, Les and Alma, who drove hours and hours to see him play in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg and the Western U.S. Les had the greatest hockey influence, but Wendel never forgot his mother's role.

"It's because of my mother's sacrifices that I'm in the NHL," Clark once said.

When Wendel took a shine to playing the saxophone in high school, Alma agreed to pay for lessons, but only if he saw them through and didn't cut hockey practice.

- The standing ovation he received for hitting the post in a 2000 playoff game against the Devils.

- His tearful 2000 retirement at the ACC.

"This will bring closure," Clark said in front of friends and family. "I started as a Leaf and now I can end as a Leaf. No matter where I've played, this always has been like home."


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