Marc-André Cliche – Canada’s unsung hero in Sweden

By Simon Richard

There is no doubt that Carey Price (MTL) and Jonathan Toews (CHI) were Canada’s undisputable key players at the 2007 WJC. The three goals scored by Toews in the shootout against USA in the semi-finals will be remembered for a long while. Designated the best goaltender of the tournament, Price was also named the MVP of the event. Of the 13 gold medals won by Canada in the history of the WJC, on 10 occasions Canada’s goaltender was named the best goaltender of the event.

That said, if winning teams usually go as far as their top players want to in the tournament, they also need the contribution of supporting players.

In Leksand, Sweden, one of the reasons that Canada won the gold was its efficiency in killing penalties. Team Canada faced 37 situations while playing with one or two men short. In these situations, the team only allowed three goals, for a remarkable efficiency of 92 percent.

Darren Helm (DET) and Marc-André Cliche (NYR) were part of the first PK unit for Canada.

"I’m proud to have contributed to the success of the team,” commented Cliche to Hockey’s Future in the Ejendals Arena in Leksand.  “I was aware that it is very important for the team to be successful in these situations to reach our goal here." 

"Marc-Andre made an outstanding job for the team,” commented Team Canada Head Coach Craig Hartsburg after the final game in Leksand. “His work ethic was great, he has been really good on the penalty-killing unit; he played for the team, not for himself. Overall, he is a very smart player."

André Dupont, a former NHL player and now hockey advisor for the agency Groupe Paraphe, has seen Cliche for several years in action on the ice. "Marc-André is this type of player entirely dedicated to his team,” commented Dupont. “The team’s success is what tops everything for him."

Carbonneau as a role model

Born in Rouyn-Noranda, PQ, Cliche played his minor hockey in this region, situated about 600 kilometers north of Montreal. He won two Esso Medals of Achievement, both as the Most Dedicated Player in novice and atom.

Selected in the 2003 QMJHL first round by the Lewiston MAINEiacs, Cliche was named Lewiston’s Most Inspirational Player in 2005-06. "Marc-André is a warrior, he works hard and is a courageous player," observed his agent Paul Corbeil from Group Paraphe.

Cliche’s favorite NHL player is Guy Carbonneau, now head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. Carbonneau was recognized for many years as one of the NHL’s best penalty killers and a Selke trophy winner.

The son of Annette and Serge Cliche (a worker in the mining industry), Marc-Andre shares a few other things with his role model. He plays at the same position, center, and at 6’0, 185-pounds, has about the same size.

Cliche’s nominations as the Team Quebec alternate captain at the 2004 Under-17 Challenge in St. John’s, NL and as the Lewiston MAINEiacs captain in 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons shows that he is a true leader as well.

During his time in the QMJHL, Carbonneau was known as a pretty good offensive player. Cliche may not be as good offensively as him but he earns some respect in this role as shows his record so far. For example, he was the Lewiston’s second top scorer in 2005-06 with 82 points (37 goals, 45 assists) in 60 games.

"Marc-André can play pretty well in both sides of the ice rink," said the Lewiston Head Coach and Team Canada assistant coach Clément Jodoin, to Hockey’s Future in Leksand. "He is very competitive, he played the role here we asked him to play and was very successful doing it."

Joining the Rangers

As a 16-year old player, Cliche recorded 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) in his first season with Lewiston in 2003-04. The following season, his draft eligible year, Cliche suffered a significant shoulder injury that caused him to miss most of the season, playing only a mere 19 games.

Nevertheless, Cliche ended up a New York Rangers second-round pick (56th) in 2005. "He would have been a first-rounder without this injury," claimed Dupont.

"We were fortunate to get him," said the New York Rangers Assistant General Manager and Vice-President of Player Personnel Don Maloney to Hockey’s Future in Sweden. "We didn’t really know Cliche until we hired Tim Murray not long before the 2005 draft. Murray was scouting for the Anaheim Ducks until then and he had seen Cliche playing many times and he strongly recommended us to draft him.

"Just before the draft, we invited Cliche to New York to evaluate him. We felt comfortable with the results and then made a move at the table when the time came."

Maloney was satisfied with what he saw from Cliche in Leksand. "He was rarely out of position here. On this team, he was playing a very specific role, indeed a checking role and a penalty killer. He played his role really well. He can though play a more offensive role, as he is doing so with his junior team in the QMJHL.”

Maloney stated that the Rangers have the intention to ink Cliche before the 2007 draft and therefore not lose him. "We want to protect him, I have talked lately with his agent [Paul Corbeil] and I’m confident that we will reach an agreement.

"He is a terrific skater,” said Maloney. “In today’s game, speed is an essential quality. If you can skate fast, you have great chances to succeed in the style played now.

"I see him eventually playing a checking role on our team’s third line," concluded Maloney.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.