MY STORY…BEGINS AT AGE 3…IN TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA…
I remember skating on frozen over basketball courts, baseball diamonds and outdoor hockey rinks. But I never grew up skating on ponds because I lived right in the city.
I remember playing in a house league near my home when I was five. It was my first year, and it was really tough. But the next year, when I was 6 or 7-years-old, hockey began to come natural to me. I became a big goal scorer, averaging like three goals per game.
It would have been weird for me not to play hockey. My cousins, my dad and everyone around me played. I remember we always played roller hockey together on the streets. But I think Toronto is different than a lot of other cities in Canada. In the heart of the city there were not a lot of kids who got into hockey, or they gave it up. It wasn’t as commonly played as people think because, for one, there aren’t those ponds people can play on. Also there were a lot of other things to do in Toronto, and it is expensive to play hockey. A lot of my friends from my high school played baseball. I was one of the only hockey players. My parents made a lot of sacrifices allowing me to play.
I played every position when I was a kid. Early on I was a forward, but when I was 14 we had three defensemen hurt and the coach asks, ‘Does anyone want to play D?’ I volunteered because I could skate backward pretty fast, and I liked passing the puck and seeing the play develop. I also liked to rush the puck from end to end, and because my dad was a defenseman. For half a year I was on defense, and then I moved back to forward. To top it off, I was obsessed with playing goalie. One weekend I begged my dad, and I finally got to play. I didn’t really like it, though, because you don’t really skate, and I always liked to skate.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were my team. I was die-hard. Felix Potvin was my favorite player — I thought his mask was pretty cool with the cat design — and I really liked Doug Gilmore and Wendel Clark. There’s nothing better than watching the Leafs. I remember going to games when I was young against teams like San Jose at the Maple Leaf Gardens. Each time was a dream come true. I really liked junior hockey as well. My dad was a St. Mike’s alum and he’d get invited to a lot of games. When I was really young I got one of the star players, Charlie Stevens’ autograph. That was my first memory of meeting a player.
Then when I was 10 my dad won a trip to the All-Star game in Vancouver. I went to the game with him and remember buying an authentic Eric Lindros All-Star jersey because he was my favorite player. At the Vancouver arena they had a restaurant called the Orca Bait Grill, which is where we watched the game from. It’s a big place and many players came in the restaurant after the game. I remember Theo Fleury walking right past me and getting his autograph along with Mats Sundin autograph. I also got Lindros’ autograph. It was surreal.
In eighth grade I was not on the path to a pro hockey career. I had a lot of other interests. I played tons of different sports, I did really well in school and there was a really social environment in Toronto. I was into music, I was into art. Kids were doing many different things. I think I was kind of a bit lost. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I wasn’t until I was older that I really started to think about playing in the NHL. I always dreamed it would be the coolest thing in the world to be an NHL player, but I thought it was just a dream.
When I was 13, I was introduced to two other guys, who still are my best friends today. We were all small, and decided the only way we were going to make it to the NHL was if we got strong. We started lifting weights and I became strong for a young guy. I really loved working out and I immersed myself in it.
Later on I got a stationary bike, and I started to do things that pro hockey players did. At that age, I was really telling myself I was going to try to go pro, but I was quiet about it. My family never made a big deal about it. I knew I was never going to be a superstar but I thought down the line that ‘there’s room for me in the NHL.’ Eventually I started to blossom and was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League.
After the OHL, I was drafted by Dallas. My path has been extremely interesting since then. That is the only way I can describe it because there have been a lot of great times and a lot of challenges. In Dallas the game seemed to change for me. I was stress-free and I was really happy-go-lucky until my time there. Then I started to put too much pressure on myself and I think it caused a bit of a rocky road for me. Then I ended up getting traded to the Kings. I didn’t really want to stick around Dallas and try to make things work, and I always felt bad about that. It was tough. I kind of lost my love for fitness and trying to be the best I could.
I lost the passion and hunger that I had when I was a young teenager, but I rediscovered that when I suffered my injuries in Manchester two years in a row early on. It reminded me where I came from, and that I didn’t get to where I was just by relying on natural ability. Things don’t fall into my lap by accident. I chase after it and I work. I remember Steve Ott telling me he suffered a lot of injuries, and Dallas was kind of down on him a few years ago. And he said everyone makes it their own way and it is not going to be picture-perfect.
Left wing Richard Clune is with the Monarchs right now and has a goal and three assists for four points and 51 penalty minutes while appearing in all 18 games this season. Clune’s 51 penalty minutes lead the team. The left wing is closing in on his 300th professional game which includes 14 games with the Kings. Clune has 291 professional games in his career to date. The Monarchs lead the Atlantic Division (tied with the IceCaps) with 21 points (9-6-2-1) through 18 games this season.