By Jim Diamond
It wasn’t that long ago that a player looking to make an impression on the coaching staff in training camp would look to do so by challenging anyone and everyone they could to drop the gloves and fight. It didn’t matter if it was practice, a scrimmage, or a preseason game, that was a way for a player looking for a roster spot to get noticed. Fights in practices and scrimmages are a rarity these days.
Hockey has evolved over the years, and the days of the one-dimensional enforcer-type player are all but over. In order to make it and stay in the NHL, an element of toughness is still a bonus, but a guy needs to be able to contribute with his gloves on in order to earn one of the 23 coveted spots on the big club’s roster.
Sunday afternoon, 40 of the players in Nashville’s camp participated in a scrimmage game at Centennial Sportsplex. Many of those who dressed for the game were the younger ones, with a few veterans in there as well.
Entering his third season in Nashville, Rich Clune was one of the veterans to participate in the scrimmage. The pace of the game was rather quick, and Clune was noticeably faster than in previous seasons, leading the rush on several occasions.
“I am a little bit lighter than the couple of years past and I worked with a skating guy over the summer, so my legs feel good,” Clune said. “When you get out there battling for pucks and hitting, it is a totally different conditioning system out there.”
Clune still plays the game with a hard edge and knows that one of his responsibilities is to take care of his teammates.
During the second period, there was a mash up of players in the corner and bodies were flying. As the players separated, Clune and defenseman Jonathan Diaby were exchanging a few words along with a cross-check or two as well.
“I had to kind of bite my lip,” Clune said. “I don’t want to fight in an intrasquad game, and nobody else does too. I just thought he maybe hit my little centerman there, my little buddy there from behind.”
The tale of the tape was not in Clune’s favor. Listed at 5’10” and 207 pounds, Clune was giving up seven inches and likely 20 or more pounds to the young blueliner.
Clune and Diaby did not fight, but Clune said that when he is looking out for a teammate, the size of the opponent doesn’t matter.
“You know me, when I get out there in a game, the adrenaline takes over and I’m a little bit delusional about how tall I am,” he said after the game. “I’ll go say hi to him now. It’s all good.”