My face is so pretty, you don’t see a scar, which proves I’m the king of the ring by far. – Muhammed Ali
Well Ali’s comments are probably quite accurate in the world of boxing, the same doesn’t necessarily translate into the world of hockey fighting.
Case in point – Kim Clackson.
Kim was a tough guy of some repute in the 1970s. He started out with Victoria of the WHL junior leagues where he earned a fearsome reputation. His physicality from the blue line intrigued both the WHA and NHL, as both leagues drafted him relatively high in their respective 1975 entry drafts.
Clackson chose to move on to the WHA, playing 4 years, 2 with Indianapolis and 2 with Winnipeg, setting team season and career records with each. He was part of the Jets championship teams in 1978 and 1979.
He moved to the NHL for 2 seasons following the WHA’s collapse, playing for Pittsburgh and then Quebec. In the first period of his first game, he fought Boston’s Stan Jonathan and Al Secord. In 206 career NHL games he recorded 370 PIMs and no goals.
Dating back to their days in junior hockey, noted NHL tough guy Dave Semenko got quite well acquainted with Clackson, perhaps more so than any other tough. They battled in juniors, in the WHA and in the NHL.
At 5’11″ and 195lbs, Clackson was quite a bit smaller than most guys, which perhaps is why he earned a reputation as one of the worst stickmen in every hockey league he played in. In his autobiography “Looking Out For Number One,” Semenko laments Clackson’s stick work and sort of dismisses him as a true top tough guy, but shows him quite a bit of respect, too.
“Sometimes it felt like we spent half of our careers fighting each other,” wrote Semenko. “We went all the way back to junior days in Western Canada, where he played for the Victoria Cougars. The first time I saw Kim I didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard all about him. His reputation was what you might call a little frightening, because he was supposed to be right off the wall. He couldn’t be intimidated, no matter what. There were rumors flying around the league about the 1000s of stitches he was responsible for. Guys like that scared me more than anything. You could pound on them only to have them come back later and cut your eyes out with their sticks.”
Semenko remembers one crazy night in Edmonton when Clackson took liberties on Wayne Gretzky.
“All hell broke loose one night when Clackson cut Gretzky, who’d been cruising through the crease. I was away from the play but Mark Messier was in the neighborhood, so he went right after Clackson. The linesmen had them separated and Clackson was in the penalty box when I got into it with Russ Anderson and we were sent off, too.
“The fights were still going on out on the ice. I sure wasn’t prepared to just sit there in the penalty box like a statue, so I said to hell with it and hopped out of the penalty box, turned around, and invited Clackson to come out. Now here I am, standing at the door to their penalty box, trying to get at him. But while I’m throwing lefts at Clackson, Anderson’s trying to grab my arm. The two of them were both trying to get hold of me and drag me into their penalty box.
“Meanwhile, though I didn’t realize it, a brawl was breaking out behind me. Anderson saw it and went to find someone to fight. That left Clackson and me all alone. He wasn’t going to back down, so we went at it. The first thing I did was get his helmet off so I wouldn’t hurt my hand at all. I managed that and we thrashed around a little more. Then the linesmen came in and broke us up.
“At that point, nobody was bothering me and everything seemed evenly matched, so I just watched the fight. But about a minute later Clackson wanted a rematch. He’d found his helmet, strapped it back on, and damned if he didn’t come right back after me. I got the hlmet off him again and got on him pretty good until the linesmen came along and separated us a second time.
“So I figured it was over. But guess who’s got his helmet strapped back on, looking for another piece of me? Clackson. We went at it a third time. Three times during one fight. That had to be a record.
“My hands were sore from hitting this guy on the head, though you’d never know it from looking at him. He looked so innocent, with that baby face of his that almost impossible to mark. I had one good fight against him in Winnipeg when I got a lot of punches in and thought I’d rearranged a few features rather drastically. Yet when we lined up to play the next game, there’s Clackson without a mark on his face!”
Unlike the stereotype of hockey’s tough guys, Clackson was a surprisingly intelligent human being. After retiring from hockey he returned to Pittsburgh after retirement and went into commercial real estate business, becoming senior vice president of local CB Richard Ellis office. Has consistently been one of company’s top producers, and has worked on deals for many of its biggest corporate clients.
See the original at Greatest Hockey Legends: Kim Clackson
Category: Jets Biographies