Book provides insight into Wendel Clark

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 PM ET

On Nov. 22, 2008, Les Clark, swelling with pride, was on hand to watch his son’s banner raised to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre.

It was the last time Wendel Clark would see his dad.

The next day, Clark’s parents departed for Florida where they spent winter months. Two months later, Les Clark passed away.

Gone was Wendel’s father. His mentor. The driving force who helped to make No. 17 one of the most popular players in Maple Leafs history.

No surprise, then, that Clark has dedicated his new book, WENDEL: My Life In Hockey, to Les.

“It’s not the sole reason it was written,” Clark told Sun Media Tuesday. “But it does pull it all together.”

He’s right on that count. While perhaps lacking in the controversy that dominated other Leaf-related books released recently, WENDEL: My Life In Hockey pieces together Clark’s journey from prairie farm boy to Toronto icon to the loss of his dad.

Indeed, the only scandalous tidbit you’ll find on these pages are about young Wendel’s exploits behind the wheel.

Back in his home town of Kelvington, Sask., Clark was just nine when he received his first traffic citation.

For driving while underage.

A tractor, mind you.

Not a car.

“A small tractor,” Clark said Tuesday night, laughing. “I was bringing it back from the (repair) shop. The officer couldn’t believe someone so small was in the seat.”

Once a farm boy, always a farm boy.

There were a couple of neat nuggets from the book that Wendel needed to be grilled about.

For example, was the Team Canada hierarchy actually going to leave him off the 1985 world junior team if he didn’t get his hair cut?

“That’s what coach Terry Simpson said,” Clark recalled. “He knew I would do it. But, no, I don’t think they’d have gone without me.”

Were his first two NHL fights actually in training camp practice games against then-teammate Bob McGill, now with Leafs TV?

“Yup. Both on the same shift. We laugh about it now. He was a western Canadian boy like me and must have seen all my penalty minutes in junior.”

Combining with Clark to pen the book was longtime Toronto Sun Leafs beat writer and columnist Scott Morrison, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and now with Hockey Night In Canada; and Leafs assistant GM Jeff Jackson, a teammate with Clark’s on that 1985 gold-medal junior team.

There is, of course, the obvious fodder for Wendel lovers, including his more-memorable scraps and his days playing alongside the equally popular Doug Gilmour.

At the same time, the book, available for purchase online at wendelclark.ca, does have one very emotional revelation.

It concerns the 1996 birth of daughter Kylie, the first child of Wendel and Denise Clark. During the final stages of delivery, the baby began hemorrhaging from the brain.

“She was born dead,” Clark is quoted, adding that he watched the entire horrifying scenario unfold first-hand in the delivery room.

Thanks to the amazing work of doctors, Kylie kept fighting, grasping to a thread of life. Almost 14 years later, Wendel says Kylie, other than dealing with a malfunctioning kidney, is a normal teenage girl.

“When you go through something like that, it gives you perspective on what is important in life,” Clark said.

“Almost 95% of the public probably was unaware of that, probably had no idea we went through that.”

They do now, thanks to this book.

Les would be proud.


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