UNB's Clendenning shares his hockey with family | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaUNB's Clendenning shares his hockey with family

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012 | 06:03 PM

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Forward Jordan Clendenning, seen in a 2011 CIS game, is looking to cap his Canadian collegiate hockey career on a high note. (Mike Dembeck/Canadian Press) Forward Jordan Clendenning, seen in a 2011 CIS game, is looking to cap his Canadian collegiate hockey career on a high note. (Mike Dembeck/Canadian Press)

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Jordan Clendenning's hockey journey has taken him from his hometown of Woodstock, N.B., down the Saint John River to Fredericton for midget, four hours north to Acadie-Bathurst for junior, then out of province to Cape Breton, and back to Fredericton again. He will share his final days playing for the New Brunswick Varsity Reds with his family at the 50th University Cup national championship.

He has played against Sidney Crosby in junior. He has skated alongside Washington Capitals centre Mathieu Perreault with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and was a teammate and friend of the late Luc Bourdon.

Jordan Clendenning's hockey journey has taken him from his hometown of Woodstock, N.B., down the Saint John River to Fredericton for midget, four hours north to Acadie-Bathurst for junior, then out of province to Cape Breton, and back to Fredericton again.

There have been many stops in between, too, for the feisty University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds forward. He played for New Brunswick at the 2003 Canada Games and for Team Atlantic at the 2004 world under-17 challenge. He also attended the 2004 Canadian under-18 camp in Calgary and earned an invite to the 2006 St. Louis Blues training camp.

After he shoots for a third University Cup championship in four years with the Varsity Reds over the next few days in Fredericton, the 25-year-old gritty forward doesn't know where his next hockey stop will take him, or if there will be one at all. The focus is on winning another national title.

"The last four years I haven't been thinking about the next step," said Clendenning, who will graduate with a bachelor of science in Kinesiology this spring with his classmate and younger sister Laura. "Now that the end is near, I will look at maybe playing pro somewhere in North American or Europe. But I'm going with the approach to let everything work itself out."

The Varsity Reds open the University Cup tournament against the Universite du Quebec-Trois Rivieres on Thursday evening. McGill, Western, Saskatchewan and Moncton are the other competing schools. Clendenning and his teammates are the defending champs.

"This tournament is not like a seven-game series, in which if you face adversity in one game you move forward and focus on the next game," Clendenning said. "In a tournament like this one every game counts. So you have to be ready. We have a great crop of veterans who have played in two or three of these and that definitely helps us in terms of preparing for this event."

Win or lose, Clendenning will share the next few days with his Mom, Dad and Laura as well as his friends. Even his fellow Bird Dogs (a 12-member golf team Clendenning plays for in an annual Ryder Cup-type tournament every summer against the Smokin' Aces at the Covered Bridge Golf and Country Club) will closely follow the games.

But John, a retired school principal, will be his son's biggest supporter. He lives and dies with every shift, just like he has for the past decade.

"He's definitely been my best friend and biggest fan," Jordan said. "I just have to credit him for being there for me right from the early days. He's been there for me through all the ups and downs. I'm excited about the weekend, but he's just as excited."

John was a basketball player in his high school days and he later fully supported his children's athletic endeavours. Laura was a figure skater. 

When Jordan played four-and-a-half seasons for Acadie-Bathurst, John made long drive from home for most of the home games. When Jordan was traded to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in his final QMJHL season, John simply made even longer road trips.

"For my entire time in Bathurst, he might have missed only one or two home games. That's a three-hour drive," Jordan said. "Any chance he got to go to Cape Breton, he made the six-hour drive along with anyone who would want to come up with him. Other nights I can remember we played in Quebec City in Game 7 of the semifinals and he drove through the night, watched the game, we lost and he drove all the way back home.

"Him being there never went unnoticed by me. You see kids these days being forced to go play a game or practice. My Mom and Dad were never that way. It was always whether I wanted to play and if I wanted to play he was there to support me. But I had to make sure my homework was done first."

Canadian university hockey has long been one of the underappreciated levels of the game in this country. Over the years, there have been many players like Joel Ward who have found a roster spot in the NHL after four or five years of Canadian university hockey.

Clendenning doesn't know what his hockey future will entail. But he does know when the end arrives he can look back and appreciate his accomplishments. He fondly recalls the summers he spent with the former NHLer Charlie Bourgeois and his New Brunswick Stars program . Many of those teammates are still friends today.

Playing in the University Cup, at the world under-17 challenge, the Canada Games and working his way through the Blues prospect and rookie camps to gain an invite to the main training camp are feats to be proud of.

So is sharing all these experiences with friends, a Mom, a sister and, of course, his biggest fan - his Father, John.

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