Former WHA and NHL defenseman Kim Clackson remembers the glory days of the Winnipeg Jets, and playing with Bobby Hull.
Status: Former NHL and WHA defenseman from 1975-1981 for Indianapolis Racers, Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguin, Quebec Nordiques and Toronto Maple Leafs. Currently is a Senior Vice President for CBRE Real Estate in Pittsburgh.
Ht: 5-10 Wt: 195
DOB: February 13, 1955 In: Saskatoon, Sask.
First Hockey Memory: “I remember some long, cold days in Saskatoon. I remember skating when I was four or five and I kept falling down on the ice and hitting my head with no helmet, just a toque, which was all I had rolled up for a shock absorber.” Should have known then, it was just the start of things to come.
Hockey Inspirations: “When I was growing up Gordie Howe, who was from Saskatchewan, came to the local Eaton’s department store to sign autographs. I was twelve or thirteen and I took the bus downtown and I got the autograph from Gordie Howe. I never got another autograph again until I was playing with Indianapolis in the WHA. At the end of the year I got the guys on the team to sign a stick. We had a really good team. Pat Stapleton was my defense partner. Davie Keon was a mentor, Darryl Maggs, Al Karlander, and Andy Brown in goal, with Jacques Demers as our coach. The next time I met Gordie was when I went to the Gordie Howe Hockey School for two years. Then worked at the Gordie Howe Hockey School every year then on, as the name was changed to Gary Peter’s Eddy Van Impe and Gerry Ehman Pro Hockey School. First time I played against Gordie was when I was playing for WCHL Junior All Stars against Team Canada in 1974. I played against him that game in Saskatoon, as Gordie played with his sons Mark and Marty. I hit Marty on the blueline then hit Mark in the corner, pick the puck to get it out of our end then the play got whistled down just before Gordie was going to show me his elbow. He said ‘Pow Kid’, the fans loved it and they broke out in a roar of laughter, Gordie skate away with a smile, sometimes whistles are good things.”
Greatest Career Moment: “Winning the Avco Cup – my second Avco Cup with Winnipeg. It was destined to be won by Edmonton, as John Ferguson, Winnipeg’s GM hired Tom McVie late in the year as the team really banded together at the end of the year and won the Cup. We took it away from Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers. It was fun shaking Glen Sather and the Oilers hands after the Cup win.” My First Avco Cup, we had Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson and Bobby Hull on a line together – that was one of the best lines in hockey. I was playing on that line as one of the defensemen and I was just mesmerized sometimes watching what they did. Just poetry in motion.”
Most Painful Moment: “It was in junior hockey. Last year in Victoria. I was captain. We were going for the Memorial Cup. Right after the trade deadline, our No. 1 goalie just decided to quit. That really left a hole on our team. We lost to New Westminster in the sixth game in the semi-finals. We lost 8-6 though we out-shot them something like 48-18. We had a really good team with Curt Fraser, Al Hill, Gordie Roberts, Peter Morris, Mel Bridgeman and Rick Lapointe.”
Favorite Uniforms: “I always liked Toronto. As a kid I always wanted to be a Maple Leaf. Chicago’s sweater is one of the prettiest. Montreal’s has so much tradition, so much character.”
Favorite Rinks To Play: “I liked playing in Montreal – the pomp and the majesty. The only rink you went in that the ushers wore white gloves. Before the game they polished the glass. The glass in the Montreal Forum was absolutely perfect. I loved how they did the presentation. Quebec was also a good place. I loved playing in Boston. Every rink you played in in those days was different.”
Least Favorite Rinks To Play: “I got hurt the most in Hartford. Broke my wrist twice and blew my knee out. (How?) Put a real good hit on (Don) Nachbaur who was a big boy, I ended up falling on my wrist. Also hit George Lyle in Hartford. Took him hard into the boards and the boards in Hartford were springy. I hit Lyle and set my leg and he sprung back and tore my MCL right knee.”
Funniest Player(s) Encountered: “Lots of them. One of the funniest lines I heard was when I was playing with Winnipeg with Ulf Nilsson and Bobby Hull. Serge Bernier dumped the puck in my corner. I got it and rang it around the boards and Serge slashes me and I’m yapping and he turns around and drops the gloves at the blueline. The first punch hit him on the nose and drove it half way across his face the second punch hit him again on the nose drove it into his ear, he went down in a big pool of blood . And Ulf Nilsson said, ‘He thought it was Nilsson but it was Clackson.'”
Strangest Game: “The first time Pittsburgh played Edmonton in Pittsburgh, Gretzky came across the front of the net. I put a stick across his chest to hold him up but I didn’t realize our goalie had tripped him. So I cut Gretzky for ten stitches. We had a bit of a rivalry. We had just beat them the year before with Winnipeg – we played eighteen times that year so we knew each other pretty well. In that game, (Mark) Messier jumped on my back. I fought Cam Connor and (Dave) Semenko. They threw me out of the game but I put my helmet back on and grabbed my gloves and came back out and fought Dave Hunter. Glen Sather threw a water bottle at my head. I was squirting water at Sather. Semenko came at me again. I really gave it to him that night.”
Fiercest Competitors Encountered: “Oh, there’s lots of them on every team. Most of the guys I played against, were fierce competitors. You look at Messier, Gretzky, Bryan Trottier how they competed. Ulf Nilsson would take a hit. He would stand in there for most of the hit and then dish it off. Ulf had a play where he would go around the defenseman and make a move on the goalie and stand at the goal line and just as he was about to be hit he would tap the puck in the net. If he did it once he did it fifteen times like that. To be that cocky and ornery – I just loved it. Those were some great players. Pat Stapleton. Dave Keon. Anders Hedberg. Dan Labrattan. Bobby Hull and Willy Lindstrom. What a fabulous team that was. In Quebec we had Dale Hunter. Look at that guy. Just a fierce competitor. What a team that was with the Stastny brothers. Marc Tardif. Andre Dupont.”
Most Memorable Goal: “Indianapolis against Winnipeg. Jacques Demers put me in front of the net on the power play. The rebound came to me and I took three whacks at it and it went in. I didn’t get many goals.”
Why Did You Love Playing Hockey: “I started off as a kid and quit. When I was twelve I was sitting in the family room at home watching the Leafs on a black and white TV play in the Stanley Cup finals against Montreal in 1967. I turned around and told my father that I wanted to do that. He said, ‘Then you better get off your butt and start skating.’ Back then I didn’t know that they played for money. I just wanted to play for the love of playing hockey.”
People Qualities Most Admired: “I watched how Bobby Hull approached every fan. He signed everything for everybody who came to him. He was the ambassador of hockey. People would come up to me and say, ‘Kim, you’re my favorite player but can I have Bobby Hull’s autograph?’ The guy was just a superstar — nobody shot the puck like he did. He shot the puck 116 miles an hour, religiously. No one does that today. He’d rip it. And he was a team player. I was very impressed with him. Very personable, very team oriented. A winner. Loved to play. Loved to win.”
Mark ‘Scoop’ Malinowski is the author of “Facing Federer” and “Muhammad Ali Portrait of a Champion” – his next book “Facing McEnroe” will be published this summer.