(Photo of Chase Clark (left) and Don Cherry (center))–BY RANDY SCHULTZ –
Chase Clark’s father, Doug, remembers the moment his son answered a simple question that changed Chase’s hockey-playing life.
“Chase had started playing organized hockey with the Wheatfield Blades when he was seven,” recalled Doug of his son, now 15. “After his first house practice the coach came in the locker room and asked, “oh, by the way, does anyone want to play goalie?”
“Chase immediately raised his hand and yelled, “I do.” At that time Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres was his favorite player.
“He has been a netminder every since.”
It was been a netminding journey that has taken Chase from Niagara to Erie County to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. And, along the way, Hockey Night In Canada Legend, Don Cherry, just happened to mention Chase’s name during one of his episodes on “Coaches Corner.”
But more on “Coaches Corner” later.
Chase was born and raised in Pendleton, NY, attending Starpoint School until the sixth grade. In 2014 Chase’s family moved to Williamsville where he attended Transit Road Middle School and Williamsville East High School.
Prior to beginning his hockey career in organized hockey, Chase began skating on a pond near his Pendleton home. Following his first year with the Wheatfield Blades, he played House I select for the Blades the next year.
This evolved into more travel hockey. Chase’s outstanding play between the pipes in his first two seasons led to the AAA Blades travel team.
Since that time Chase has played seven years of AAA hockey including two years with the Blades and four years with the Buffalo Regals.
Then came the move last year that surprised many. Chase was accepted to Everest Academy and moved to Toronto for school and to play in the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL).
Why live and play in Toronto this past hockey season?
“A big part of my development came in the spring/summer hockey,” said Chase, the son of Doug and Keri Clark. “After the winter programs ended new teams form for the spring seasons.
“Early on I played for a team from Brantford, Ont. I tried out and made a team called the East Coast Selects.
“With this team I actually travelled to Italy for a hockey tournament. I also played in tournaments all over the United States, including Las Vegas.
“Most of the Spring hockey is played in Toronto. That’s where I played most of my tournaments.”
But why take the risk and head north, not only to the “Hockey Mecca of the Universe,” but another country?
“I always felt that the best competition has been in Toronto,” stated Chase, who has three sisters including Brianna, Madison and Summer. “When the chance came to attend a hockey school and play in the GTHL, the most competitive youth hockey league in the world, I jumped at the chance.
“I was ready for the challenge and it was something I had been wanting to do for years.”
While it may seem like a risk leaving home at 15 to attend Everest Academy, Chase receives his goalie, strength and conditioning training there. He has classmates from all over the world including Russia, China and all over North America.
As for goaltending, this was a big development year for Chase. He simply wanted to be in an environment that gave him the best training, competition and exposure.
The highlight for Chase came this past winter when he was selected to play in the GTHL prospects game. It is the GTHL’s All-Star event. Out of the 24 goalies in the league, Chase was one of four selected for the game.
Not only did he play, but he was selected MVP of the contest, a game in which Cherry dropped the ceremonial opening faceoff and presented the MVP Award to Chase.
To top off everything, Cherry not only mentioned the GTHL as well Chase, but a photo of Cherry and Chase was shown on the “Coaches Corner” broadcast.
“That was really pretty cool,” remarked Chase. “But to be mentioned by him on “Coaches Corner,” that really was cool.”
With all that under his belt, what is next for Chase?
“The OHL (Ontario Hockey League) Draft is coming and we’ll what happens after that,” concluded Chase. “My dream has always been to play in the NHL.
“Right now we’ll take it one step at a time.”