Clark Gillies was born and raised in Moose Jaw which at that time had a population of about 36,000. His father was a shop assistant and Clark had an easy childhood. In the summer he played baseball and in the winter hockey.Clark was actually so good at baseball that he played three seasons of minor league baseball with the Houston Astros’ farm team in Covington, West Virginia, where his season-high batting average was .257. Later, he once impressed the New York Mets as a power hitter when he took casual batting practice at Shea Stadium. But fortunately for all hockey fans, Clark decided to pursue a hockey career instead.
He played three seasons of junior hockey for the Regina Pats (WHL) where he had three very solid seasons and collected 79, 92 and 112 points. His final season culminated in a Memorial Cup victory, the junior hockey championship. Clark remembered the years in Regina.
“My first year in Regina I had a lot of fights, over 200 minutes in penalty kicks (248 playoffs included). I got a little respect. I was a big kid, and it just came naturally. I did not want someone should not push me around. I had to establish a base for myself. I think it helped me the last two years. The second year I did not have too many problems and the third year was relatively quiet – five, six , 10 fights. “
What Clark developed in Regina was confidence. Clark was also a massive 6’3 “and 215 lbs. His size, toughness and leadership qualities made NY Islanders 4th overall in the 1974 entry draft.
Clark immediately made an impact in the NHL by scoring 25 goals and 47 points. Although Clark received little support for rookie of the year honors in 1974-’75, many hockey people still felt he was a much better player than Eric Vail, who won the Calder Memorial Trophy that season.
As a rookie, Clark faced Dave Schultz in the Stanley Cup semifinal against eventual champion Flyers. Schultz had just set a new NHL record with 472 PIMs and was the “terror of the NHL” at the time. Clark destroyed Schultz and sent a clear message to everyone around the NHL. No one messes with Clark Gillies or the emerging New York islanders.
Clark quickly blossomed into a key player in the NY Islanders search for the Stanley Cup. He scored more than 30 goals in six of his next seven seasons and had points totals of 61, 55, 85, 91, 54, 78 and 77. In the late 1970s and early 80s, he was one of the NHL’s leading left wingers and was a 1st team All-Star in 1978 and 79. He was also the MVP in the 1979 Challenge Cup series against the Soviets. And when Canada was defeated 8-1 by the Soviets in the 1981 final of the Canada Cup, Clark scored the only Canadian goal and he was the only player in the Canadian team to truly give 110% until the end.
He did not blind you to his speed or his cane handling. He had a hard shot, but his best mark was his excellent two-way play, hard work, leadership and the respect that opponents had for his fists. Clark did not have to drop them very often, but when he did, there was virtually no one who could beat him. Clark has destroyed the reputation of quite a few so-called enforcers.
He once knocked out the tough old Ed Hospodar who left him in a pool of blood with a broken jaw … all with a single fist! He also gave solid blows to such great fighters as Terry O’Reilly and Al Secord. But he was by no means an enforcer himself.
“I never thought about fighting or myself as an enforcer or a policeman. I was on the ice to do work, score some goals and mainly stop the other guys from scoring. Fighting has never been a priority for me. ” Clark said.
For many years, Clark played on the so-called “Long Island Lightning Company” line. His original linemates on that line were Bryan Trottier and Billy Harris who were later replaced by Mike Bossy. The Gillies-Trottier-Bossy trio could not be stopped most evenings and scared opponents. Clark always used his size and power to his advantage while Bossy and Trottier performed their magic with the puck. He was most effective when he placed himself in front of the net to screen the goalkeeper.
Clark was also a great leader, and a proud member of the NHL captain’s fraternity. Clark was just 22 years old when he was selected on February 3, 1977 to replace 36-year-old veteran Ed Westfall as captain. Westfall was at that time the only captain of NY Islanders since 1972.
“It was time for a younger man to take over the job,” Westfall said. “Clark was the right man. He gets along with everyone and is the type of player who can lead others. He can be closer to the younger guys in the team.”
The other guys considered for captaincy at the time were Hall of Famers Bryan Trottier and Denis Potvin. The young Trottier, 20, at the time fully agreed to have Clark as captain.
“He’s just big and everyone likes him. Everyone looks up to him. His haste gives us a lift out there. He does not have a hated leg in his body. He is easy to talk to and he has a lot. respect among the other guys. ” Trottier said.
Clark played for the NY Islanders until 1986, leading them to four consecutive Stanley Cups. He was an important part of the NY Islanders machinery and a huge favorite of fans.
In 1986, NY Islanders exposed Clark to the concept of renunciation. He was picked up by the Buffalo Sabers and played for the Sabers for another two years before hanging them in 1988. He retired with 958 games behind him, with 319 goals, 378 assists and 697 in his pocket. More importantly, he has 4 Stanley Cup rings at his fingertips, largely thanks to his 94 points in 164 playoff games.
Clark Gillies was the power forward of the 1970s and 80s. Not only did he score goals from the lock, but he was great in the corners, a very good two-way player, could fight, worked hard, had good leadership qualities, had a big heart and was a winner. GMs will kill today to have a guy like Clark on their list.