For months, Vancouver Canucks’ owner Francesco Aquilini’s Twitter mentions were filled with fans begging for the organization to re-sign goaltending coach Ian Clark.
It wasn’t until Thatcher Demko publicly joined that crowd that things really started to pick up, it seems.
“Clarkie is, he’s unbelievable. I mean, I owe probably just about everything to him,” Demko told reporters back in May. “Obviously I’m putting in the work, but the way he’s guided me and mentored me, it’s been amazing. I just hope that they can figure something out and have him return. I think the momentum that him and I have right now is exciting. I think that there’s still a ton of room for me to grow. The work that he and I put in over the last few years, just the habits and the routines and the way that we’re able to think the game and be on the same page now, is something that I’d love to continue to do down the stretch here in the next few years. I really hope he gets back here.”
It seemed as though a reunion with Clark was becoming more unlikely with each passing day, and was reported that after his internal deadline had passed, the only way he was coming back was if the organization offered him a five-year contract — congruent with Demko’s — something many thought they wouldn’t do.
After all, extending a goaltending coach longer than your head coach and general manager isn’t something a lot of teams are willing to do, but it’s a forward-thinking, progressive move that the organization deserves a ton of credit for, because they signed Clark to a five-year deal yesterday.
“When you talk to people around the league, I don’t think anyone expected them to be that progressive and to bend on term to sign a goalie coach for longer than the general manager or the head coach had a contract,” said Kevin Woodley on a recent appearance of Canucks Conversation.
Because of its length, the deal does carry some added risk, which is why it’s even more impressive that an organization that pinched every penny it could this past season agreed to the long-term deal.
“This goes right up to the ownership level I believe for sort of opening the vault and being willing to do things differently, because the one thing is, Ian is a very strong personality,” added Woodley. “If the coaching staff changes over the years, you could run into a coach that maybe butts heads and doesn’t work well with him and you could end up paying out this contract, and not have him in your employ. Those are things that can happen and those are things and risks that a lot of owners and a lot of management groups don’t want to take, but again, full credit here.”
So as not to sound like a broken record, we’ll refrain from putting in the full quotes, but over the years, Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko, Michael DiPietro, Arturs Silovs, Jake Kielly, and even Curtis Sanford have all referred to Clark as the best goalie coach they’ve ever worked with.
His track record speaks for itself, and losing him only for another team to gladly scoop him up would surely have been a PR mess like few others.
While it carries some potential risks on the business side for the organization, this deal ensures the Canucks’ institution of goaltending excellence now has the best chance of continued success, and from the top down, they deserve credit for getting it done.