by Christina Caligiuri || AHL On The Beat Archive
When you catch a glimpse of 5-foot-8 Kevin Clark, the words “professional hockey player” don’t exactly come to mind. With a small build and small frame – he weighs in at 171 pounds – Clark’s pursuit of hockey stardom hasn’t come without its challenges.
The 22-year-old Winnipeg native went undrafted, playing out of the University of Alaska-Anchorage where he recorded 104 points in 137 games. This season, he led the Seawolves in scoring with 37 points in 36 games.
Life was pretty good. And then the Manitoba Moose called – and life turned great.
“It was a surreal feeling to come back and play in my hometown after growing up here and playing junior here,” said Clark, who had just gotten off the ice from his Tuesday morning skate. “This was the best opportunity and best-case scenario for me to come here and I am enjoying every minute of it right now.”
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Signing an amateur tryout agreement on Mar. 19, Clark saw his first action two days later when the Moose hosted the Griffins in front of over 12,000 fans, including friends and family, at the MTS Centre. The stage was set for the local kid to take the dreams formed on the backyard pond and make them a reality, with everyone who has always supported him watching closely.
Clark – playing in first game in his hometown since April 27, 2006 as a junior – didn’t disappoint, notching Manitoba’s second marker at 6:25 of the opening frame. His first professional goal, in his first professional period, in his hometown.
“I definitely had nerves coming in, so scoring when I did made it all that easier. It was the best gift for me to get a goal in my first game but at the same time it was even better to contribute to the win with the team going down the playoff stretch.”
Clark played his junior hockey with the Winnipeg South Blues of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, playing two seasons in blue and yellow, before heading to Alaska for the 2006-07 season. His time at Alaska has concluded, but he is hoping a new chapter in his hockey story can be written here in Manitoba.
“Obviously going to the NHL is the ultimate goal, but this is a perfect stepping stone. I have a long way to go and right now I am just going to take baby steps.”