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Devils Q&A with David Clarkson

by Staff Writer / New Jersey Devils

Clarkson is hoping to see more goal celebrations like these during the 2008-09 season. –
David Clarkson made an impact for the Devils last season with his grit and physicality. In the year ahead, he says he hopes to make a name for himself on the scoresheet.

Clarkson's high-energy style resulted in a team-high 183 penalty minutes in 2007-08, to go along with nine goals and 13 assists as a rookie. But the Toronto native's junior and minor pro careers suggest that he's as comfortable taking the body as he is putting the puck in the net.

Clarkson remains an active participant in children's charities. 
While skating for Kitchener (OHL) from 2002 to 2005, Clarkson recorded three-straight seasons with 100-or-more PIMs and back-to-back campaigns of 20-or-more goals. In his final year, the 6-1, 200-lb. right wing posted OHL-career highs across the board with 33 goals, 21 assists and 54 points.

Clarkson was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Devils in 2005, then picked up in the AHL right where he had left off in junior. He netted 13 goals, 21 assists and 233 PIMs at Albany in 2005-06, and a season later broke through for 20 goals, 18 assists and 150 PIMs at Lowell.

With the offseason winding down and training camp approaching, Clarkson is excited for what his future holds. He took the time to participate in the latest installment of Devils Q&A featuring questions submitted by the fans.

How old were you when you began to play hockey?

Piscataway, N.J.

Clarkson: I was four or five years old. My dad was a big hockey player, and he put me on the ice for skating lessons pretty early. I grew up with a mini-hockey stick in my hand, and never put it down. I think from the time I could walk, I always had a stick with me... it never left my hand.

What player influenced you the most when you were growing up?

Germantown, N.Y.

DC: I'd have to say Wendel Clark. He was my favorite player, and he still is to this day. I had a chance to meet him this summer, and it was like being a little kid again... I didn't know what to say. He's still the guy I look up to the most; maybe him and Doug Gilmour. Doug introduced me to him at a charity bowling event, and I couldn't think of anything to say to him... it was a little embarrassing. I grew up a big-time Leafs fan because my dad had season tickets, but I'm slowly getting him to switch his basement from blue and white to red, black and white.

Is there anything crazy about you that the average person would never suspect?

Central New Jersey

DC: I love working with kids off the ice, and helping them out through different charities. That's probably the only thing off the ice that people might not know about me.

How is your children's foundation doing? It was such a great thing when you were doing it in Albany with the River Rats.

Schenectady, N.Y.

DC: It's doing really well... It's called "Clarkie's Kids," a charity where we bring sick children to Kitchener Rangers games. I loved what I did in Albany, and we had a lot of help in getting that going. I still love doing that stuff and going to hospitals to visit kids. It's nice to see them smile when they come to a game to see you play – it's rewarding for them. They have a chance to get out of the hospital and they enjoy seeing players do what we love to do. I've been involved with it since I played in Kitchener, and at Christmas I still sometimes have an opportunity to meet with the kids that come to the games.

After this year's final playoff game against the Rangers you were in the lineup shaking hands with everyone, but you were stopped with Brendan Shanahan for a while. What did he say to you?

Sal and Dana
Howell, N.J.

DC: I wasn't in the best of moods after we lost that series, but both of us grew up in Mimico, Ontario. I went to his hockey school when I was a kid from the age of eight to 13, and he mentioned after the series that his mother had called him about a week earlier to tell him I was from the same hometown. He touched on that and told me to keep working hard.

Clarkson heads off the ice after being named First Star vs. PIT on Feb. 4.
What do you feel you can bring to the team that perhaps you couldn't in your rookie year?


DC: I plan to bring a lot of the same stuff, but maybe with more scoring. I think I had a lot of chances last year, and this year I want to try to bear down and put the puck in the net some more. I've also worked on a lot of things defensively, but I feel I can chip in some more offensively.

As an undrafted free agent, how excited or surprised were you to be signed by the Devils?

Sydney, Australia

DC: It was pretty surprising for New Jersey and Mr. Lamoriello to give me an opportunity to play, nevermind give me an NHL contract. I always dreamed of playing in the NHL, but as I got older I knew there weren't a lot of guys that actually make it. I just kept working hard, and I owe a lot of it to Mr. Lamoriello and to my coach in juniors, Pete DeBoer, and to all the people that have been there for my family and have pushed me to where I am. It's an honor to be here, having never been drafted. It was a tough go at times, but you have to work hard and work through it. There are ups and downs in anything you do, but you have to battle through all that stuff.

Was there ever a time in your career when you thought playing in the NHL was not going to happen?

Westfield, N.J.

DC: Personally, I never let it get in my head that it might not happen. I'm really hard on myself: when I play, I always ask or want to know if I'm doing things correctly, and I think that's part of what's gotten me to where I am. I had never let it get to a point where I thought this wouldn't happen. You do realize that guys around you are getting drafted; you think maybe you're not going to make it to the NHL right away, and you'll have to play minor pro for a little while. But I don't think I ever got it in my head that I wouldn't make it. I wanted to push myself. You never want to be older and regret not giving it everything you had, so that's what I did.

Do you look for trouble on the ice, or does trouble usually find you?

Branchburg, N.J.

DC: It depends on the game. If we're down a couple of goals and we need a boost then I'll go out there [and do something]. But you'll never see me fight right off the bat, or fight for the sake of fighting. It's more to stick up for someone or help out the team. That's something I've learned throughout my career from coaches like [former Albany head coach] Robbie Ftorek, [Devils head coach] Brent Sutter and [Devils assistant coach] John MacLean. They've helped me realize that you don't just fight for the sake of fighting, you do it to help get your team going or to get the boys back in it. If someone hits a guy on your team too hard, you go out there to let him know not to do it again. Sometimes I look for it, sometimes it finds me, but it can be a little bit of both sometimes.

What are some of your favorite Jersey hang-outs?

Trenton, N.J.

DC: I'd have to say Forte in Caldwell... I go there quite a bit. Also, I like Whole Foods in West Orange.

What music groups do you enjoy listening to in your spare time?

Middletown, N.J.

DC: Guys bug me about it, but I was brought up on Rod Stewart because my dad was born in Scotland. So Rod Stewart, The Proclaimers... but I listen to everything. I'm a fan of Coldplay, too.

You are quite a popular player with younger fans. What has been your favorite fan experience this past year?

New York City

DC: I'd have to say it happened at a signing last season. I always try to throw a puck over the glass after warm-ups because I used to be that kid, and I was always begging the players to throw me one. So we were doing a signing, and a kid came to me and gave me a puck and a picture – he had signed the puck for me. It was a puck that I had thrown to him before a game. The picture was of me scoring a goal, and his mother said that it had made his season being able to go to school and show the other kids this puck that I'd given him. He had gotten two pucks, and he wanted to sign one and give it back to me. I still have that puck at my home in New Jersey, and that was a pretty cool moment for me.

How do you prepare yourself for the on-ice trash talk that you have to deal with during a game?

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

DC: I think over the years you pick up some funny things to say to guys, but it's nothing you prepare for. When I go out there, I know what I have to do and that's get under the opponent's skin. You let them know you're going to hit them every chance you get.

The Devils are scheduled to take on the Florida Panthers and head coach Pete DeBoer for the first time on Nov. 20. Is that going to be a special night for you?

Springfield, N.J.

DC: Pete DeBoer has been a big part of my career and a good friend, but I think when you're playing against somebody you have to put that behind you, and go out there to do your job. There have been good friends of mine that I've had to fight over the years, and if you took it easy against every friend you had you're going to lose a lot of games. I'm going to go even harder against him... that's going to be a big game, and I'm looking forward to it.

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