- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

When the Washington Capitals moved into Kettler Capitals Iceplex last season, it was a bit of an inconvenience for Chris Clark.

His Dodge Ram 1500 truck was too tall for the parking garage that the practice facility sits on top of, so Clark had to park his pickup across the street and walk.

“[I caught] a little bit [of grief], but I’ve always had a truck, and I love trucks,” Clark said. “I use it all summer, and I still have it. I can’t give it up. In Alberta if you had any of these cars you got made fun of. When I first got [to the Calgary Flames] everyone had a pickup and a four-wheeler in the back. It snowed almost 12 months out of the year.”

Clark rectified the problem this offseason by purchasing an Audi to drive to and from practice. It was just a small part of a busy summer for Clark, his first as the team’s captain.

With the new facility in place and a handful of new faces expected in the lineup, Clark wanted to get his teammates together before the real training camp started. His efforts were rewarded with nearly every member of the roster showing up in Arlington early for precamp drills and pickup games.

The Caps’ new-look group will be in Atlanta tonight for the team’s season opener against the Thrashers.

“Yeah, [I was] trying to get guys here — sending texts or e-mails or calling guys to see if they could come early and get the team together as quick as possible,” Clark said. “It was a big thing because it seems like training camp is getting shorter with the games right away, so getting the guys to know each other outside of hockey and on the ice was the focus of the preseason.”

The Caps acquired Clark from Calgary on Aug. 4, 2005, for a conditional draft pick, which turned out to be Washington’s seventh-round selection in the 2006 draft. After two partial seasons and three full ones with the Flames as a checking-line, grinder type, Clark’s offensive game flourished with the Caps.

He had a career-high 20 goals and 39 points in the 2005-06 season and upped those totals to 30 goals and 54 points last year after being named the team’s captain during training camp.

“Yeah I have [surprised myself],” Clark said. “Coming from Calgary on the third line, second line some nights, but 10 goals three years in a row — I kind of thought that was my ceiling. But I got a little bit more of an opportunity when I first got here and a little more of one last year so things sort of happened well for me.”

Added defenseman Brian Pothier: “He is every coach’s dream. He is the hardest worker on your team. He can do everything on the ice. Anything you ask him to do, he’ll do. The character is unbelievable. He’s literally a coach’s dream and a natural born leader.”

Clark was rewarded with a three-year, $7.9 million contract extension in July that will keep him in a Caps uniform through the 2010-11 season. He will make $1.1 million in the final year of his previous deal this year.

“The offer was there, and it is tough to say no at that point,” Clark said. “I have a family, and it is nice to know that I have that security of a couple extra years. A lot of things can happen over the course of a season. A lot of things can happen over the summer walking down the street, so it is nice. I ended up loving the area and loving the direction the team is heading, so it was a real easy decision that way.”

Before coordinating his teammates’ early arrival at camp and signing a contract extension, Clark also helped general manager George McPhee lure free agent defenseman Tom Poti to Washington with a phone call July 1.

He also captained Team USA in the world championships in Russia shortly after the Caps’ regular season was over. Clark had two goals and an assist in six games for the United States, which lost to Finland in a shootout in the quarterfinals.

“There was instant respect. It is not just in our room; it is around the league that he is known as a standup character guy,” said Pothier, one of Clark’s teammates with Team USA. “It was an easy transition for him. He’s known as ‘The Captain.’ He’s just got that thing that makes everyone want to follow him. He was phenomenal and didn’t miss a beat.”

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