When you think of NHL players that laid the body throughout their career, Scott Stevens or Darius Kasparitius come to mind. That’s who New York Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck said he watched on the “Rock’em Sock’em” videos, which played a part in him becoming a physical player.
Twenty-plus years later, Cal Clutterbuck sits atop the all-time hits list, as with his 9 hits against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he passed former Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown (3,632) for the most all-time.
Clutterbuck now holds the record, with 3,635, after laying the body on Leafs defenseman Mark Giordano with under seven minutes to play in the third period.
Hits were not recorded until the 2005-2006 season, so there’s no way to tell if Clutterbuck is the true all-time hits leader. Also, with the way the NHL off-ice officials calculate hits, not consistently, these numbers are likely incorrect.
For example, Clutterbuck had at least two hits in the first period and certainly did not go forty minutes without another one, but we digress.
“I just liked it. I’ve always liked it,” Clutterbuck said. “I just remember from the time I was nine or 10 years old when we were first allowed to hit back then…it’s like 17 [now], which I don’t think is right either, but just remember that first game. I used to watch the old ‘Rock’em Sock’em’ tapes and loved the big hits.”
Not many of us have truly laid a player out on the ice, so we asked him if there was a major adrenaline rush with each hit and was that an addictive feeling that led to that being a focal point of his game.
“Yeah, I guess there is,” Clutterbuck said. “I preferred to be the one who’s the aggressor. Be the hunter, not the hunted. So that was always my mentality. And as you go up in the ranks and the crowds get bigger, you start to get a reaction.”
“It’s always kind of been a thrill for me. It’s just been part of my game.”
When a player is such a physical presence on a nightly basis, that may invite trouble. We asked Clutterbuck if there was ever a concern that he would need to fight on a nightly basis to continue that style.
“I would say my first two or three years, there was somebody trying to fight me every game, almost every shift,” Cutterbuck said. “But knowing that I’m 5’10 and I don’t have the longest arms in the world, it was probably pretty easy for me to pick my spots. And back then, if I had chosen to fight, I would have fought every day.”
The hip-check is not as popular as it used to be, and to Clutterbuck’s knowledge, he has never laid one. Here’s why:
“That’s not really my specialty. I just like going shoulder-to-shoulder. I like the challenge of ‘who’s going to be the one to be standing at the end of the collision’ kind of thing. That’s kind of a challenge. That’s kind of what goes through my mind every time I go into the body, even if someone’s looking at me. Going straight at each other, it’s just like, ‘alright, well, one of us is gonna go down’, or both.”
For most of his New York Islanders career, which began in 2013-14, Clutterbuck has been on the fourth line alongside Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas.
But it did not start off like that.
“He got traded here. I was already in the league for two years with different linemates. He was playing on the third line. Me and Casey were playing fourth,” Matt Martin told NYI Hockey Now. “I think it was a game against Buffalo, actually, where Capuano just changed it up and put the three of us together, and it seemed to spark some energy. The building got into it.”
“It feels like ever since then, we’ve been together. So definitely a player that complements the way I play and the way Casey plays, not just from a physical standpoint. I mean, he can play the game as well, makes plays, smart hockey player, and it makes the game easier for all of us.”
“I think that’s why the three of us probably worked so well together. We can all bang and put a lot of pressure,” Matt Martin told NYI Hockey Now. They’re not just able to look for the one guy and move past him because Casey will bang and Clutter, myself [too]…like to create a little chaos out there and be physical, be hard on teams, and obviously, he’s been doing that for a very long time.”
For Cizikas, what Clutterbuck has achieved is pretty special.
“We focus on being physical and, and playing hard, and for him to do as long as he has it, it speaks to how he takes care of his body,” Cizikas told NYI Hockey Now. “So it’s not an easy thing [to do]. Not a lot of guys can do it. So it’s pretty special.”
Cal Clutterbuck has played 16 years in the NHL. He’s dealt with injuries, like that scary skate cut to his wrist or the shoulder surgery he underwent this past summer.
He’s taken a beating, but he’s never changed the way he’s played. And that’s what this new record stands for.