Mike Clemente grew in Great Falls, Virginia. From a young age, he wanted to be a netminder. Growing up he idolised Ollie Kolzig, who played at the time for the Washington Capitals, Clemente’s closest NHL team growing up. It was meeting his idol at a young age that meant that Clemente pursued his love of hockey and being an netminder.
At 27 years old, he’s got so much experience under his belt, having played for Brown University, in the USA youth team and many years in the AHL with various different teams before being signed by the Storm in the summer of 2016 as their starting netminder.
This month the Manchester Storm travel down to the Skydome to play for conference points and so we spoke a bit about that. Other players before him have said that the Skydome can be an intimidating place to play, though each of them have had different reasons for their description. “It’s certainly a tough place to play. With the way the rink is set up. You get the feeling that the fans are right on top of you.” Understandable, especially considering the noise that Blaze fans can make when they are hyped up on adrenaline.
“The Skydome is so cold.” He replied when I asked what he liked about playing in Coventry. “I prefer colder rinks because you do not sweat so much.” Understandable, I think, especially for a player who is on the ice for the entire game without a break.
How did Mike find the new conference system? “I really like it actually. It’s great for us because we do not have to travel as far as we did last season although I like playing every team because they all present different challenges. It’s such a long season and I really like the team we have. I believe we have a legitimate chance of staying at the top.” I asked how he felt that his season was going so far and how he was finding it with Manchester being so high in the league.
I had to ask about how he would respond to fans who accuse him of almost constantly being guilty of deliberately knocking the nets off the moorings. “It’s unfortunate that some rinks have proper pegs and some do not.” He begins. I’ve noticed while observing these fan debates, that this kind of accusation is thrown more at North American and Canadian netminders. My own take on it, is that it’s to do with the country where they learned to play. Canadians and Americans tend to lean more heavily on their posts because they are used to deeper pegs. European netminders don’t do it so much, but what was Mike’s take on the debate. “It sucks when the game gets bogged down by the net coming off. I would love to see every rink adopt a North American standard for nets.” With the current state of the rinks in the UK, that is unlikely to be something that can be done easily and those with uses other than just for ice hockey makes it harder still to have that kind of a mooring system.
Movember has come and gone no, all that remains that it ever was are some dubious photographs and of course the money raised for such a worth cause. So how did the Storm do their part for the campaign? “A bunch of us are growing out our moustaches for Movember and we’ve been raising money through the team.” Enough said about some of them dodgy ‘taches!
And how will he be spending Christmas? We all know scheduling over Christmas in the Elite League is incredibly tight and so those who are away from their families often get together to celebrate the holidays. “This year, I’ll be celebrating with Paul Swindlehurst and his family. Lots of good food and a great time.” Sounds like a good way to spend the limited amount of time off.
The last thing we discussed and the personal favourite of mine is the story behind his mask. This years mask is very much a more simple affair. Which is actually a really nice design. “This season I wanted to keep it simple. I put the Manchester bee on the front because I really liked how it brought the city together after the MEN Arena bombing. On the back I included six arrows bounded together for my five brothers, a moon and sun together for my two sisters, an evil eye for my mom, my girlfriend’s initials, and a lemon head for my nickname from college.” When I interviewed him last season his other helmet had on the arrows, initials for his girlfriend and the lemon for his nickname. Those seem to be elements that he has had on his masks since he had begun to personalise them.
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This article was first published in the December 2017 edition of the Coventry Blaze’s match night program OnFire and has been reproduced here with permission from the editor Stu Coles now the program is out of print.