by Kim Mueller
When a player like Sean Avery is traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the New York Rangers, a large focus is put on the big name player and his NHL career. Some of the other players involved in a trade like Avery’s have fans asking, “Who?”
That might have been the case on February 5, 2007, when the Kings acquired Jason Ward, Jan Marek and Marc-Andre Cliche in exchange for Avery and John Seymour. While Ward was traded later that season to Tampa Bay and Marek continues his development in Europe, Kings fans will soon become more familiar with Cliche as he begins to make his name known in households both on the West Coast and the East Coast.
“The first person who told me I was traded to the Kings was (Jonathan) Bernier,” Cliche explained of his trade from the Rangers to the Kings. “We were in class and I started laughing because I thought he was joking. Once I found out he was serious, I was happy. The Kings are a great organization and I’m lucky to be a part of it.”
Following the completion of his final season with the Lewiston MAINEiacs in the 2007 Memorial Cup championship, Cliche (right) joined the Manchester Monarchs for his first professional season.
“It was a great experience and a great season,” said Cliche. “It was a new level and far from what I experienced in juniors. We were living on our own. We had great coaches who did a good job showing us the way and we had a great group of guys in the locker room.”
Cliche’s adjustment to the American Hockey League and a rookie filled squad in Manchester took a little time. In his first 27 games of the season, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound native of Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, scored just four points (three goals, one assist). On December 22, 2007, when the Monarchs were in Bridgeport, Cliche took a shot off his foot and missed the next 25 games of the season.
“I wasn’t happy I was injured but watching the guys from the stands for a month and a half gave me motivation to get back out there,” explained the rookie center.
Returning to the ice with his team on February 22, Cliche finished the final 25 regular season games with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists). He also went from having a plus/minus rating of minus-1 prior to his injury to a plus-9 at the end of the season, which tied for second on the team.
“I was more mature out on the ice the second half of the season,” he said of his play since returning from injury. “I was more patient and poised which is what my game was missing early on. By being out for as long as I was, I was watching the game from a different perspective than before and that helped me mature.”
To keep his momentum moving in a forward direction, Cliche has been training hard this summer.
“I spend about two and a half to three hours in the gym every morning then I run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with a running coach and hit the ice a couple times a week. You always want to get stronger because you need to be stronger to get to the next level. I’m always working to get stronger, skate faster and shoot harder.”
For most hockey players, the summer is never all work and no play. Marc-Andre spent the first two months of the off-season spending some time relaxing, although the weather in Rouyn-Noranda has not cooperated.
“It rained for 20 straight days in June up here!” exclaimed Cliche. “My golf game is getting better in the rain so I must be pretty good when the sun is out.”
Marc-Andre spent some vacation time at the Riviera Maya in Mexico and is catching up on some reading this summer, too.
The Kings may have lost Avery and a future prospect in Seymour when they made the trade with the Rangers a year and a half ago, but they are reaping the rewards from that decision as Cliche works on improving his game and will likely trade in his Monarchs jersey for one with the Kings logo on it.