Thursday, July 24, 2014

He's Back - Garrett Clarke Returns To Allen

The Allen Americans have agreed to terms with agitator extraordinaire Garrett Clarke and the feisty defenseman will be returning to the Allen blue line after playing for the Arizona Sundogs last year. As a ninteen year old rookie in 2012-2013 Clarke set a team record for penalty minutes (broken last year by Garrett Klotz) when he had 223 penalty minutes in 54 games for the championship Allen Americans.

Here is what coach Steve Martinson said about bringing Clarke back to Allen. "I have always liked Clarke's skill set and the fact that he plays with an edge. Sometimes when you are young and play with an edge you go over the line. This will be Garrett's third year as a pro but he is still only 21 years old. I am bringing him in because I feel he has learned from his past experiences and will be a more mature player."

Last year, after signing in July 2013 to return to Allen, Clarke decided to sign with the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) in September but did not make the roster and then signed with Arizona. He played in 52 games with the Sundogs and had fourteen points (5 goals, 9 assists) along with 188 penalty minutes. Garrett did not make the Arizona playoff roster.

A couple of incidents while playing for the Sundogs had Allen coaches, players and fans upset with Clarke. In January in Arizona he was suspended for one game for "intentionally clearing the puck into the Allen bench with three seconds remaining in the game" and in March he was suspended for two games after he received a "Match Penalty" in a game in Allen for attempt to injure when he took several slashes and swings at Allen players. When asked about these incidents Garrett acknowledged there may be some fences that need to be mended but words will not earn the respect back from those in Allen who have concerns. Here is what he said, "I am very happy to be coming back to Allen as I really enjoyed my time playing for the Americans. Steve Martinson and I have always had a good relationship and I am happy to be playing for him again. For those that have concerns I know words won't earn respect. I will earn their respect by my on ice performance and the way I conduct myself as a professional on and off the ice. I want to earn everyone's respect and that is what I intend to do."

What is Garrett up to this summer? He is back in Canada living in Moncton. "I'm working at a golf course right now. I wake up at 4:00 am everyday and bike 10 miles to and from work.
Training after work and getting on the ice a couple times per week."

For those that don't remember, I did a player profile interview with Garrett back in December of 2012. He was admittedly a work in progress back then and that is still the case. Remember, he is still only 21 years old. Here is that player profile from December 6, 2012. Clarke has a ton of potential and Steve Martinson is known for putting players with potential in a position to succeed. It should be fun to watch.

Photo by
Garrett Clarke #7
Birthdate: 11/3/1992
Birthplace: Windsor, Nova Scotia
6' 1" 210 lbs.

The story of Garrett Clarke is one of contrasts. There have been lots of highs and lows, ups and downs in such a young hockey players life. Garrett was only nineteen when he arrived in Allen for training camp. Just how young he is was apparent when I asked him what hockey players he admired as a youngster. He was a big fan of the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) as he lived close by and two of his favorite players growing up were Bruce Graham and Adam Pineault.  

Young is a theme that kept coming up in my conversation with Garrett. Even though he doesn't remember it, he started skating at 18 months with double bladed strap on skates holding on to the back of a chair, at 15 he became the youngest player to ever make an oral commitment to play college hockey at the University of North Dakota , he was drafted sixth overall in the 2008 QMJHL draft as a fifteen year old, at 18 he attended training camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he is the youngest player on the Americans by over three years.

Lots of success so young came with a price. If you look at Garrett's hockey resume it looks like one of a grizzled old veteran. Lewiston MAINEiacs, Halifax Moosheads, Shawinigan Cataractes, Acadie-Bathurst Titan, Gatineau Olympiques. Five QMJHL teams in four years. Criticism began before he started playing in the league as people questioned his motives for the commitment to the University of North Dakota (UND).  The truth is his coach at the time was a UND grad and encouraged him to make an oral commitment to get an education.When he started playing in the QMJHL  he was a 15 year old playing with 19 & 20 year old guys. He had to grow up way to fast.

His style of play was always an agitator, a real get-under-your-skin type and in that role he was very effective. There was never any question about his skill, however when your style of play is on the edge it is easy to go over the edge. Garrett is the first to admit that he made mistakes, took some stupid penalties and caused some problems. But unless you know the complete story about what was going on in each situation when he was traded the only conclusion people would draw was a negative one that Garrett was undisciplined, had an attitude problem and was released or traded because of this. It got so bad that he quit reading about himself on the internet.

The truth of the matter is in some situations the coaching style wasn't a good match,  others it was a mutually agreed trade to better the team and Garrett.  In one situation an owner made a financial decision against the will of the general manager (who was let go as well) and coach that resulted in Garrett being released.

Even the highlight of his career thus far ended up bittersweet. In 2011 he was invited to the Toronto Maple Leafs development camp. He did so well at the development camp he was invited to the main camp. Inspite of having played for four QMJHL teams in three years at that time, the Maple Leafs were impressed with his play. Dave Morrison, the Leafs'  chief scout at the time said the Leafs gave him a tryout because the club’s maritime scout said Clarke had played well in his most recent junior port, Acadie-Bathurst. "We liked his compete level and he surprised us with some of his puck decisions. Kid looks to have a lot of heart,” Dallas Eakins, the head coach of the rookie team, said at the time. His family came from far and wide to see his debut in a Maple Leafs jersey. Clarke’s mother, Janet, endured a 14-hour drive from Maine. Clarke’s father, Tim, also drove from Windsor, Nova Scotia. And rounding out the traveling fan base was Molly Chambers, Clarke’s maternal grandmother, who resides in tiny Brooklyn, Nova Scotia. The 74-year-old Chambers, accompanied by Clarke’s uncle Chester, took two planes and a taxi to arrive in time for the action.

Garrett's grandmother summed it all up: “It was kind of emotional when I saw him come out on the ice with that jersey on, with the Maple Leaf on it,” she said. “He’s worked so hard to get there. He’s really worked hard, and taken a lot of verbal abuse over things.”

Everything looked great including talk of an entry level NHL contract which was being worked on when Garrett broke his hand during camp and a decision was made to have him return to his QMJHL team (Acadie-Bathurst) for one more year. Anyone that knows QMJHL hockey is aware of the owner of the Acadie-Bathurst team. He has had seven coaches in the last eight years. Garrett was once again traded under some shady circumstances. The public perception was once again he had a problem but it wasn't the case at all. The end result was when his draft year came he went undrafted by the NHL.

So how did Clarke end up with the Americans? He signed his first pro contract with Reading (ECHL) in August 2012. With the NHL lockout there were lots of players sent down to AHL & ECHL affiliates so there was no room for him in Reading. He went home and was thinking about giving up hockey and going to school when his agent called and said the Americans were interested. His first reaction was no but after he checked into the team and found out about coach Martinson and the former Stars players involvement he was all in.   

My impression after having spent over an hour talking to him is Garrett is a sensitive young man with tons of potential and truly wants to do the right thing, develop his game, and be a good teammate. He told me if he had  it to do all over again he would have gone the college route and gotten his education. He really admires the guys on the team that played hockey while earning a degree. He is absolutely thrilled to be in Allen and had nothing but great things to say about the organization, coaches, teammates, fans and the people of North Texas. It is the best hockey situation he has ever been in.  He knows he still has lots to learn about life and hockey but he also knows he is in the perfect situation as the coaching staff is giving him lots of on ice one on one instruction.  He is improving each and everyday.

I for one am cheering for him to continue to grow, learn from his mistakes and make it to the next level. As a twenty year old I'm sure there will be bumps in the road but I look forward to watching his progress.

Keep an eye on Garrett this weekend as he has some extra incentive to play well. His mom (Janet), grandmother (Molly) and uncle (Chester) arrive today for a visit and to watch him play. I hope to meet them so I can share with them how impressed I was with Garrett and how we are all pulling for his continued success.

Here are some questions I asked Garrett to get to know him:

Mom (Janet) is a nurse
Dad (Tim) is the President of a Transportation Company
Sister (Ashley)
Grandmother (Molly)
Pet (Zoey) A Shih Tzu

Roommate: Ryley Grantham

Nickname: Clarkey

Hockey Hero: Eric Lindros & Mike Green

Favorite Actor: Zach Galifianakis

Favorite Actress: Jessica Biel

If you could have lunch with anyone living who would it be: Jessica Alba

One thing people would be surprised to learn about you: I am a hunting guide back home and specialize in bear hunts

What chore to you hate to do: washing dishes

Where is the most interesting place you have visited: Stockholm & Helsinki

If you could do anything besides being a pro hockey player what would it be: pro golfer

Any pregame superstitions or rituals: none

Who is the funniest guy on the team: Brett Skinner with his sarcastic humor

When was the last time you lost something: I lost my cell phone three days ago

Favorite thing to do on the bus: I like to play Schnarps but I am terrible at it. The guys don't want to play with me. I am so bad. They threaten me with a lifetime ban.

Do you have a favorite childhood toy: Roller Blades

Favorite TV Show: Breaking Bad, Family Guy

Here is Clarke's information courtesy of hockeydb:

Garrett Clarke

Defense -- shoots L
Born Nov 3 1992 -- Windsor, NS
[21 yrs. ago]
Height 6.00 -- Weight 210

Regular Season Playoffs
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- GP G A Pts PIM
2008-09 Lewiston MAINEiacs QMJHL 46 6 3 9 86 -15 4 0 0 0 10
2009-10 Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL 45 6 16 22 165 -15 ----------
2010-11 La Tuque Wolves QJAHL 6 1 1 2 55 -2

2010-11 Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL 18 1 5 6 53 -9 ----------
2010-11 Shawinigan Cataractes QMJHL 11 1 6 7 14 -4 ----------
2010-11 Acadie-Bathurst Titan QMJHL 28 4 12 16 69 9 4 1 2 3 6
2011-12 Acadie-Bathurst Titan QMJHL 24 2 14 16 48 -15 ----------
2011-12 Gatineau Olympiques QMJHL 31 7 14 21 105 -12 2 0 0 0 6
2011-12 Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees CHL ------------ 1 0 0 0 4
2012-13 Woodstock Slammers MHL 1 0 0 0 4

2012-13 Allen Americans CHL 54 1 3 4 223 -5 ----------
2013-14 Arizona Sundogs CHL 52 5 9 14 188 -6 ----------

1 comment:

  1. Oh boy, he has his work cut out for him with the fans We can only hope he has learned his lessons well.