Rich Clune signed with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, who noted that the gritty winger is also expected to attend the Maple Leafs’ upcoming training camp.
Clune, 28, was already the type of hard-nosed player that fans often get behind, but his soul-searching article with The Players’ Tribune only made him easier to root for.
He really exposed some painful truths in that beautifully written piece:
Between the ages of 15-24, I was not here. I was checked out. I did not exist. Rich Clune the pro hockey player existed. He got in over 150 fights and drove drunk and chased women and laughed and cried and lived in oblivion. But Rich Clune, the kid who loved art and film and read books and thought deeply about life, that guy was just not around. He couldn’t cope with the pressure.
Then one day, he woke up. I wish I could tell you it was when L.A. Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall pulled me aside and said, point blank, “Rich, do you want me to get you some help?” I wish it was when my parents begged me for the millionth time. But it wasn’t like a movie. One day, I just woke up and had enough.
By no means has Clune dropped the gloves after becoming sober. Clune fought 17 times at the AHL level (and once in the NHL’s preseason) during the 2014-15 season, according to Hockey Fights.
He’s been with the Nashville Predators organization since 2012-13, spending last season primarily with the Milwaukee Admirals. He did spend most of 2013-14 with Nashville, however, generating seven points and 166 PIM in 58 games.
The Leafs are going younger and cheaper, yet during this rebuilding process, it’s plausible that Clune might get some NHL reps. He’ll certainly have some people behind him as he tries to do so, too.