If you think the Kings went though a lot of changes this summer, how about what Kyle Clifford experienced last year?
A small town kid playing junior hockey knocks the socks off the management group of his NHL team, makes the big club, moves to Los Angeles…and starts getting into scraps with men – often much bigger than him – a couple times a week. Oh, and then he starts scoring big goals in the playoffs.
No, this actually happened, we’re not describing the plot of some new Disney movie.
Although he’s been completely embraced by the fan base and his teammates, Clifford says he’s coming into this season with a degree of caution.
“This summer my focus was that there isn’t a legitimate spot that I have locked up. So, I want to continue working hard and just get ready for this season. I want to try and make an impact on this team this year.”
As with most players, in addition to training, he found time for a few extracurricular activities too.
“Hanging out in small town areas, some people might not think it’s exciting,” Clifford began. “But, I just kind of kept it simple – bonfires with a lot of friends and family, things like that. I also made it out to a country concert. We took a little three-day camping trip to New York to see Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Jared Neiman. It was a lot of fun.”
Emphasising the important role friends play in Clifford’s world, he made time to honor one with a tattoo on the inside of his right bicep last month. It’s a few simple words in script lettering that will help him remember a close friend who passed away while Kyle was off in the NHL last season.
Bringing it back to the present, yesterday at Hockey Fest, young fans were eager to know more about Clifford during the Kid’s Press Conference. Given how quiet he was last year around most of the guys though, I asked if he was a little intimidated or concerned when he found out he’d be up on stage with the always colorful Matt Greene and Kevin Westgarth.
“I was actually pretty excited, that’s less talking for me. I don’t really like to voice my opinion too much, unless it’s needed. So, I was excited that they’d be up there to take over most of the talking.”
Truth be told, Clifford ended up doing plenty of talking, answering everything asked of him – including his Halloween costume, what karaoke song he likes to sing, the weirdest thing he’s been asked to autograph and much more.
For those that missed the Kings Presser, it was perhaps the highlight of Hockey Fest this year. I’ll be sure to post video later this week when the guys over at Kings Vision make it available.
We’ll also have plenty more notes and quotes from Hockey Fest later today and throughout the week.