Rich Clune

A faster Rich Clune still plays with an edge while keeping an eye out for his teammates

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.”

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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.”

Rich Clune reached out to Patrick Wey following Sunday’s fight

By Jim Diamond

Sitting at his locker stall at Centennial Sportsplex following Tuesday’s practice Rich Clune’s right hand bore some abrasions left over from a recent fight.

Just over eight minutes into the first period of Sunday night’s game, Clune skated up ice and was hit into the boards at the red line between the benches by Washington defenseman Patrick Wey. Following the hit, some words were exchanged and then the two dropped the gloves.

Clune’s helmet quickly fell off while the two traded punches early in the scrap. Wey’s remained on his head. Several of Clune’s punches appeared to connect with the visor affixed to Wey’s helmet, which likely caused the damage Clune’s hand was sporting Tuesday.  

At the end of the fight, Clune landed a right uppercut that connected squarely with Wey’s jaw. Wey dropped to the ice immediately and stayed there for a while until assistance arrived. He was able to skate off the ice on his own, albeit with some difficulty.

“I didn’t like it,” Clune said. “When you get engaged in a fight, obviously anything can kind of happen. I’m not going to cry alligator tears. It is a sport, a combat sport. I didn’t realize that the kid went out and I was concerned for him for sure.”

Fighting is part of Clune’s game, and while injuries such as the one Wey sustained are rare, there is always the possibility that one will occur when the gloves are dropped.  

Clune obtained Wey’s phone number and sent him a text message. Clune said Tuesday that Wey responded to that message, and said he appreciated the fact that Clune reached out to him.

Per, Clune’s 16 fighting majors are just three behind Tom Sestito for this season’s league lead. Again per, Sunday’s fight was Wey’s first in the NHL. His only other fight in their database took place January 21, 2009 when Wey was in the United States Hockey League.  

Clune saw 10:46 of ice time in Sunday’s game, the third consecutive game in which he received double-digit minutes. Predators head coach Barry Trotz liked how Clune responded in the aftermath of the fight.

“He’s been doing it long enough, that’s part of the role,” Trotz said. “Just as when it happens to you, I think you’ve got to blank it out and forget about it. We talk about having that short-term memory; I think that’s what those guys do.”

The Washington Post reports that Wey will not be in Washington’s lineup Tuesday night, quoting Capitals head coach Adam Oates as saying Wey is, “still not feeling great.”

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