Funny, fierce, and gritty, Bleeding Blue recounts every struggle and success of Wendel Clark’s rough-and-tumble journey to becoming one of hockey’s greatest heroes.
As a young boy growing up in Kelvington, Saskatchewan, Wendel Clark never dreamed of an NHL career. The pro league just seemed too far away from the young man’s small-town life in the Prairies. But Wendel had a talent for hockey that was surpassed only by his love for the sport, and it wasn’t long before he embarked on a path that would take him away from his hometown to a new life.
Wendel honed his talents in cities across western Canada and earned a reputation as a force to be reckoned with on the ice. Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs first overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, Wendel burst onto the pro scene and immediately made an impact, all the while staying true to his roots. As he learned from the players around him, Wendel steadily matured into a respected leader. He soon assumed the mantle as the Leafs captain, and his willingness to lay it all on the line transformed him into a player who could inspire courage in his teammates and fear in his opponents in equal measure. The future seemed limitless for the young star.
But just as Wendel’s talents were set to peak, everything unraveled. Years of no-holds-barred, physical play were taking their toll, and soon his greatest competitor wasn’t anyone on the ice, but his own body. Every movement brought agony, every shift was a challenge, and every game meant the decision to keep fighting. But as Wendel’s body broke down, his resolve only grew. Determined to succeed no matter what the cost, Wendel set out on a course that would allow him to keep doing what he loved and that would turn him into one of the most beloved hockey players of all time.
Emotional and uplifting, Bleeding Blue is the story of a man who refused to say no, who wore his heart on his sleeve, and who would do anything to keep going, even when everything told him to quit.
There are two types of ache in hockey player Clark's play-by-play memoir: the physical kind, which kept him off the ice far too often during his career, and the ones that longtime fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs (the "blue" of the title) continue to feel as the team hunts for its first championship since 1967. Clark, the 17th Leafs captain, who retired in 2000 when he was only 33, is open about his health: "As an athlete, your body is supposed to serve you. When it rebels, like mine was doing, each outburst takes longer and longer to put down and get over." But when it comes to discussing his teammates and management, the normally truculent winger pulls his punches, speaking badly of no one. The best insights come as he recounts his education in the game, graduating from frigid arenas in small-town Saskatchewan to the NHL and representing Canada in international competition. Hockey fans will savor wisdom from NHL coaches such as Pat Burns, who taught him "that I didn't have to do it all in a single shift," and Glen Sather, who predicted that Clark was "not going to last" playing his style of crash-bang hockey.