Most people want good news heading into the weekend. Unfortunately, LA Kings forward Kyle Clifford received a double shot of bad news late last week.
After signing with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign just before Thanksgiving, he’s played in five games and has three goals and six points. So things were going fairly well until they started to unravel a bit on Thursday when the league issued the following statement:
“The ECHL (has) announced that Ontario’s Kyle Clifford has been fined an undisclosed amount as a result of a violation of the ECHL’s exclusive equipment policy. Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the ECHL and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association, player fines collected by the ECHL are given to the PHPA for its ECHL Player’s Hardship Fund.”
Although the fine is believed to only be a few hundred dollars, it still had to be a minor annoyance for a player just trying to work on his game and stay in shape during the ongoing NHL lockout.
Compounding any frustration Clifford might have been feeling upon hearing the news is an upper body injury that was about to keep him out of the line-up.
After missing Friday’s game vs Bakersfield, Reign coach Jason Christie was somewhat coy about Clifford’s playing status, telling us with a rather wry smile – “It will be a game time decision tomorrow.”
Not only did Clifford go on to miss Saturday’s game, he sat out yesterday as well.
“It’s just rest. We’re trying to get him into game shape,” Christie said when asked for a follow-up explanation yesterday.
Then, after he laughed a little – and perhaps knowing he wasn’t going to smoke things by us a second time - the coach offered some clarification on the situation.
“He has a little nagging injury we just want to be cautious with. It’s nothing serious at all. We just gave him the weekend off and he’ll be ready to go by Friday (note: the Reign are off until then).”
During some further discussion Christie referred to it as just “aches and pains” and added that “he’s been skating” – which supports the notion that he should be back in the line-up at the end of this week.
Clifford, meanwhile, talked not only about the injury, but also about his recent fine when we caught up with him after Ontario’s 5-4 overtime win last night.
“It’s nothing serious or anything to worry about,” said the 21-year old left wing. “We’re just going one day at a time, giving it a rest and then we’ll reevaluate and go from there. We don’t want it to get worse. It’s been getting worse the last week. That’s why we thought it was a good time to rest it up and go from there.”
During the down time Clifford will most likely be seeking out some new sticks as well.
“I like my Bauer sticks. That’s what I’ve been using since playing junior (hockey),” he remarked, as he began to explain why the league fined him. “I know there’s a rule here that you have to use Reebook. I painted them black and I guess you’re not allowed to do that. So, I found out the hard way.”
Sounds like somebody might have turned him in.
“Yeah. I know who did it too,” Clifford quickly shot back. “But, I’m not going to name names.”
Hmmm. The last game Clifford played in was vs. the Alaska Aces – a squad that features several NHL players. Could it possibly have been one of those guys?
In talking with a few people off the record last night, most theories seemed to point in that direction. We’ll probably never know for sure though.