Alumni Spotlight: Chris Clark
[WashingtonCaps.com continues the summer series "Alumni Spotlight," where WashingtonCaps.com interviews former Washington Capitals players. Previous Alumni Spotlights include Matt Pettinger, Ben Clymer, Bryan Muir, Jamie Heward, Brendan Witt and Anson Carter.]
WashingtonCaps.com (WC.com): You were acquired by Washington on Aug. 4, 2005. What was it like to be traded?
Chris Clark (CC): Well it was my first time being traded so that was definitely different. Also we were just coming out of a lockout pretty much so it was actually a good time to be traded in the summer because I had a little bit of time to find a place and get settled and all that, but it was definitely something I will never forget because it was my first time being traded.
WC.com: You played for the Capitals for about five seasons (2005-06 to 2009-10). What do you think has changed the most about the team?
CC: I just think since the beginning when I got there to now it’s become one of the top destinations for free agents to come to play. Just a very good team, always going to be a contender for the playoffs, and once they get into the playoffs who knows what can happen. They are always going to be a tough contender. It’s become one of those places where people look at as a place they want to play.
WC.com: You were put on the first line with Alex Ovechkin your first few years here. What was it like to play with Alexander Ovechkin?
CC: It was different. You know, he was young and it was actually a lot of fun because (laughs) once I got him the puck there was a good chance it was going to be a good scoring opportunity. So it was something I had to get used to and being a left wing - myself, I am a right wing - so I had to get used to him being on my side every once in awhile. But he’s become obviously one of the best players in the league and an all-around player, so he’s come a long way from his first couple years. He definitely developed into a great two-way player.
WC.com: The Capitals named you their new captain on Sept. 13, 2006. You were the third-longest tenured captain in the history of the Washington Capitals. What do you remember most about the team at that time?
CC: We were still a young team, not quite a veteran team; guys were coming up getting into the second, third, or fourth years as being pros so it was still a big learning curve for much of the guys. But it was great because the players were awesome and we had a couple of older veterans as well like Olie Kolzig, who is someone that I looked up to as a teammate and someone who I would go to with questions; that made being a captain, especially a first-time captain, a lot easier knowing that I had Olie on the team.
WC.com: George McPhee has been quoted saying, “Leadership is not a sometime thing or a come and go thing, it is an all-the-time thing. Chris Clark has all-the-time leadership qualities. He is a leader in the mold of one of our all-time favorites, Dale Hunter; a quiet man off the ice, a cantankerous, ultra-competitive player on the ice.” What did you find most challenging and enjoyable as captain at that time?
CC: I thought it was definitely an honor. It was something that I never thought about myself being. But I always carried myself as someone that the players can come and talk to if they had questions. It was a roll that I, even before captain, being one of the older guys in Washington, it was just something I enjoyed. I enjoyed talking to the younger guys and making sure they felt welcome and accepted onto the team so it was just something even before being a captain I always did and enjoyed doing. So that part of being a captain became very easy for me. And the on-ice stuff George told me and the coaches at the time told me, “be yourself, don’t change anything.” And that was a little easier for me as well because I didn’t have to change my role on the ice either.
WC.com: During your time as captain of the Washington Capitals Brooks Laich mentioned that, as a single guy on the team, he spent at least three Christmases at your house, that other players also spent the holidays with you and your family, and that you were always looking out for guys and making them feel at home. Did you create a more family oriented atmosphere in the locker room and with the other players while you were the captain of the Capitals?
CC: I tried to. We had some older guys with families and we had a lot of younger guys who were single, some with girlfriends some without. It’s tough to get them all together at times but I wanted to make sure that we were a team and make sure that when we got together outside of hockey we included everybody and did something everyone could enjoy, whether it’s a guy’s wife or a single guy on the team. It’s something I thought was very important, for the guys to get together outside the hockey rink and get to know one another and get to know the families, wives, girlfriends, and get the girlfriends and wives together, so everybody can become more of a family. You learn how to stick up for each other and get each other’s’ backs that way so it’s something I tried to do definitely early on as a captain. Especially on holidays as well, if guys didn’t have families coming in, especially some of the younger guys, we always invited them over to our place to spend time with our family and I know it’s very important to a lot of the guys. I don’t want to see anybody alone on a holiday especially when we are at home and not on the road, so it’s something we tried to do.
WC.com: Do you keep in touch with any other former or current Capitals players?
CC: Every once in a while I’ll talk to guys, especially when I was playing and playing against the guys. I talk to Matt Bradley quite a bit and I’ll text with Olie Kolzig every once in a while. There’s definitely guys I’ll talk to especially if I see them in person. It’s good to talk to a lot of those guys I haven’t seen.
WC.com: What is your most memorable moment with the Washington Capitals?
CC: That’s tough! (Laughs) There are so many. We had such a great time in Washington. It was tough to leave. Something that sticks out I think is a lot of watching what Alex (Ovi) did his first couple years and how he shocked a lot of teams and a lot of defensemen and one that obviously sticks out in my mind and a lot of other people’s minds was the goal that he scored on his back in Phoenix. It’s memorable and I do see it once in a while on NHL Network and highlights and stuff like that so it’s something I will always remember and especially because I think I was on the ice at the time as well. (Chuckles)
WC.com: What’s next on the horizon for Chris Clark?
CC: Well I just got the job as the new development coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets so pretty soon that will be taking up a lot of my time. It’s a little slow right now. We just finished up our development camp a week and a half ago so that went very well and it was a good chance to meet all of our young guys, so once the season starts this will be taking up all my time and a lot of travel but it’s something I really enjoy. It just follows along the lines of when I played where I was trying to help out some of the young guys and make sure they made a name for themselves and stuck in the NHL, and hopefully I’ll do the same with the young guys and try to give them some of my experiences and how I made it.