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Best of times for former Knight


POTSDAM — Afternoon thunderstorms ruined Chris Clark's shot at taking part in the Clarkson University men's hockey reunion golf tournament Saturday.

But little else has gone wrong of late for the 1997-98 Golden Knight team captain, who now holds the same position with the NHL's Washington Capitals.

Clark, who is 33, made the one-hour drive from his summer home in Henderson Harbor to Potsdam and did get the chance to see many of his former teammates, including current Calgary Flame Craig Conroy and current Clarkson assistant coach Jean-Francois Houle.

Just 20 games shy of playing in his 500th career game, Clark realizes that his pro career has exceeded expectations he had when Clarkson was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Colorado College in his final game in 1998.

"It's fun," Clark said of the Capitals. "I get a lot of opportunity to play. It's a good team and everything seems to be moving in the right direction."

After one full season in the minors, Clark first reached the NHL with the Calgary Flames in the 1999-2000 season. He was with Calgary through the 2003-04 season, ending his Flames career with a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in game seven of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.

He was traded to the Capitals in the offseason and just finished his fourth year in the nation's capital, though he's been limited to just 50 games overall the past two seasons due to injury.

Clark's best NHL season came with the Capitals in 2006-07, when he supplied 30 goals and 24 assists in 74 games. That was also his first season as team captain.

"That was definitely something I never thought would happen," Clark said of an NHL captaincy. "The opportunity was there when I was one of the older guys on a young team. It was just fun to do that.

"It's a similar role (to Clarkson in 1998). I haven't changed much since I've been playing here. There's a lot more media there and you have to take care of that more, but other than that I think a lot of the role is the same."

Being a prominent player in Washington D.C. has given Clark many unique opportunities. He said he's had lunch with senators, golfed with congressmen, gotten behind-the-scenes tours of the Capitol building and Pentagon and even flown with the Blue Angels.

"I definitely wouldn't have been able to do that in any other city," Clark said. "To drive by the monuments before every game, it's just something you take for granted not living in the area."

Perhaps the best perk for Clark is having the chance to watch each night young teammate Alex Ovechkin, who many consider the best player in hockey.

"It's like a highlight reel every night," Clark said. "He does something special every time and he's fun to watch. To have the best seat in the rink to watch him is even better. Every year is still something new, whether it's a big hit or a fancy goal; he does something new all the time."

Ovechkin also gives Clark hope that someday he may get the chance to be on a Stanley Cup championship team, something he came within one game of in 2004.

"They're trying to build the team around him, so you need that one piece," Clark said. "He's the franchise-type player. You want to build around him as quick as you can. He has a long-term contract, but with the other guys on the team, who are young, you never know where they'll be in four or five years. You want to do something right away."

But for a few more months Clark will be enjoying time with his family in Henderson Harbor.

"It's nice and quiet and peaceful," Clark said. "We don't get the traffic that D.C. has. It's a lot more laid back. It ended up being a great spot for us."

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