When Michael Clarke heard he was traded to the Humboldt Broncos, the Alberta product was shocked.
Now the 20-year-old forward couldn’t imagine capping his junior career anywhere else. The Canalta Hotels Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 11, Clarke has established himself as a top points producer and leader for the Broncos. Of receiving the news of the trade last summer, Clarke said:
“I had so many emotions running through my mind. I sat with my family and explained the news of the trade, and everyone was excited, including myself. There truly wasn’t a better place for me to finish off my junior career.”
As of Nov. 18, the Broncos had the SJHL’s record at 18-6-2-0. The team has earned a spot in the Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 Weekly Rankings. Clarke has relished being a part of something bigger than himself.
The 5-foot-11, 201-pound Clarke has certainly played a role in the Broncos’ success. As of Sunday, he paced the team with 35 points and 21 assists. Clarke’s 14 goals tied him with Brayden Camrud for the team lead.
Clarke, who spent part of his early childhood in Newfoundland, played for three teams in total in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and the B.C. Hockey League the last four seasons. In 2016-17, he posted career highs of 31 goals and 62 points in 60 games. This season Clarke is on pace to surpass those numbers. He said that consistency has been his mindset this year.
“On other teams, I was always able to score, and put up decent numbers, however I would go through ups and downs all season,” Clarke said. “This year my focus was to always compete and strive to be the best player on the ice each game – not just a few here and there. Keeping on top of the mental aspect of my game has also helped me reach new heights and succeed with the opportunity given to me.”
He also said the chemistry he has with his linemates Owen Guenter (26 points, tied with Camrud for second on team) and Bryson Cecconi (nine points) has also put him in a position to excel. As well as production, the Broncos look to Clarke for leadership. The team does not have a captain this season in honour of the late Logan Schatz. Instead Clarke and the returning survivors of the April 6 bus crash tragedy – Camrud, Tyler Smith, and Derek Patter – serve as assistant captains. When asked how he helps lead the Broncos, Clarke, now in his fifth and final season, said:
“I have been through lots of situations, from coaching changes, to being on teams that have struggled and teams that have been good, I was able to learn the in and outs of the game. I feel that because of my experience I am able to relate to guys on the team easily and can help them with any issues not only on the ice, but off as well. With that however, I like to lead by example, and that goes shift by shift, game by game. No matter what’s going on in the game I always try to make an impact, and when younger guys are seeing that it can motivate them to follow, which causes a chain reaction for every guy.”
Off the ice, Clarke billets with Amanda and Colin Brochu and their sons Sean and Duke, and daughter Miller. He said, “They are an unbelievable family and I am beyond grateful they have welcomed me into their home for the season.”
“The thing I have enjoyed most about being a Bronco is the support that we as a team have received from the community, and everyone who wants to be a part of the healing process. Every day when going into the rink and putting on the uniform, there is a massive amount of pride that takes over and it drives you to succeed and become a better person overall.”