Nepean's Brandt Clarke goes from world junior spectator to starring role
L.A. Kings defenceman got his start in minor hockey with the Nepean Raiders
Playing in the NHL is a major achievement for any young hockey player, but being chosen for Team Canada in the World Junior hockey championship is another dream altogether.
Ottawa's Brandt Clarke has made both a reality.
On Wednesday night, his parents Trish and Chris Clarke will watch their son compete in the semifinal against the U.S. at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax — something that means the world to the Clarke family and hockey fans alike.
"It's spectacular to just be privileged enough to get a front-row seat to see this unfold," Chris said.
On Monday, Canada beat Slovakia 4–3 in a nail-biting quarterfinal game to make it to the semifinals.
"It's not only a strategic spot in that tournament, and the chance to go to gold, it is also a historic moment of probably one of the most famous rivalries in Hockey. Canada versus U.S.A.," Chris said.
WATCH | The Clarke parents on Brandt's career:
The defenceman played minor hockey for the Nepean Raiders until he was 13, then shifted to the Toronto area. In 2021, he was picked eighth overall by the NHL Los Angeles Kings and made the team this season.
Older brother Graeme Clarke plays for the New Jersey Devils organization
Chris said he remembers taking Brandt to watch the World Junior Championship tournaments in both Montreal and Toronto years ago. While he says his son was immersed in the games, his priorities were slightly different back then.
"Brandt was keen to watch the hockey, but probably just as keen on seeing how many hot dogs he could eat that game," Clarke said.
Now, of course, Brandt's role is very different.
"He's grown up to be one of the main players on the team and he embraces that," Chris said.
Will be 'heck of a game,' says 67's coach
The head coach of the Ottawa 67's couldn't agree more.
"A lot of people will be on the edge of their seats. It should be a heck of a game," said Dave Cameron. "Anybody who watches it will not be disappointed."
Three 67's players made it to the world juniors this year. Two go head-to-head in the semifinals: right wing Tyler Boucher, an Ottawa Senators draft pick, is playing for the U.S. and defenceman Jack Matier for Canada.
"It's a huge tournament that's a big stepping stone for a lot of these junior players and it's something they all have on their bucket lists," Cameron said.
Canada's junior men's team won gold in the 2022 tournament against Finland with Cameron as head coach. The team made it to the finals in 2021, but lost to the U.S.
"It's the best of the best, and you know, to make Team Canada or the U.S. team is quite a step up for these guys," said Cameron.
While Cameron has two players on opposing teams vying for gold, his loyalty is clear.
"I'm 100 per cent Canadian."
Other Canadian players with local ties include Gatineau Olympiques forward Zach Dean, Gatineau native Tyson Hinds, Senators draft pick Zack Ostapchuk and former Kingston Frontenac Shane Wright.
67's general manager James Boyd is also Canada's manager.