NHLer Clitsome surprises Jr. 67's
AEDAN HELMER, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Jets defenceman and Gloucester native Grant Clitsome paid an unannounced visit to the minor bantam Jr. 67's during their practice Friday at Brewer Arena. (QMI Agency/ERROL MCGIHON)
OTTAWA - Explain it to me like I’m a 13-year-old.
That’s what members of the NHLPA find themselves doing this week as labour talks continue to drag on and the first 82 games of the NHL season already scrapped.
The latest goodwill ambassador to drop in unannounced on a wide-eyed minor hockey squad is Gloucester’s own Grant Clitsome of the Winnipeg Jets, who surprised a group of minor bantam Jr. 67’s at practice Friday at the Brewer Arena.
“A lot of guys are sitting at home with not too much to do and itching to play, so if they can get out and help out the kids, it helps,” said Clitsome, who first plied his trade with the Gloucester Rangers before making the big leagues as a draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, with a stopover at Clarkson University along the way.
“It’s a goodwill thing, but it’s also the players just wanting to get out and help kids. I remember as a kid growing up, to have an NHL player come out to meet us was a huge thrill, just being able to meet an NHL player let alone skate with one it was a highlight. It’s just fun for us.”
When asked how an NHLer would explain the lockout to a 13-year-old, Clitsome replied: “That’s a good question.
“I would just say it’s the business side of the game and it’s out of our control. We have our union looking after it and they’re negotiating with the NHL and hopefully they’ll get a deal done as soon as possible.
“I know it sucks for the fans, it sucks for the players, it sucks for everyone involved.”
That sentiment was echoed wholeheartedly by Jr. 67’s player Darcy Walsh, a family friend of Clitsome’s, and the younger brother of current OHLer and 67’s forward Daniel Walsh.
“It sucks,” was Darcy’s first response when asked for his thoughts on the lockout.
And while the 13-year-old doesn’t get too engaged in sports pages that now occupy themselves with legal jargon and rhetoric instead of summaries and highlights, the basic arguments are not lost on him.
“I know it has something to do with money,” he said. “I really don’t know much about it, but I know the players want more money and the owners want more money.”
If Clitsome were asked to break it down for the young fan, here’s how it would go:
“The owners and the league wanting a bigger percentage of the overall revenue and they’re not willing to play until they get that. They want a bigger piece of the pie and that’s really what it boils down to.”
That may not fly with a kid who’s playing a game for the fun of it and not for the dollars, and while Clitsome feels the youngster’s pain, he also acknowledges “It’s tough for fans to relate.
“From a fan’s perspective you have these wealthy players saying they don’t want to give up any more money, and so it’s difficult to comprehend.
“From a player’s point of view we’re just trying to get a fair deal that will help the health of the league so hopefully the next negotiation we won’t have to go through this again.
“The hardest part to comprehend is that you hear the league talking about record growth and continued success and the league is really at an all-time high right now.
“It’s frustrating to put the brakes on that and even start sliding downhill from that.
“When you have that kind of momentum it’s to everyone’s advantage to keep playing and build off that. We just want to get back playing.”