Ian Clark's On Hockey: Manchester will miss Clune, Hickey
MANCHESTER -- ALREADY hit hard by call-ups to the parent club Los Angeles Kings, the Manchester Monarchs took two more hits on Tuesday. These two hurt more than the rest, however.
Two key veterans, defenseman Thomas Hickey and forward Rich Clune, were claimed off waivers. Hickey was taken by the New York Islanders and Clune was snagged by Nashville. That left the Monarchs with just 17 skaters for Tuesday's game with Springfield.
Those players, along with Monarchs captain Marc-Andre Cliche and Andrew Campbell, were all placed on waivers from L.A. since they had signed AHL exclusive deals to play with Manchester during the NHL lockout. They needed to clear in order to remain in Manchester.
Based on information provided by the Monarchs organization on Monday, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported on Tuesday that all four had cleared waivers. But the waiver process started later than anticipated and had not expired Monday, so the players were able to be claimed on Tuesday.
"They're going to be sorely missed. It's not like you can make up veteran players out of the thin blue air," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "It's one of those situations where they're a couple of likeable guys and they've been with the team for a few years. Not only were they good in the locker room but they were good in the community and their heart and soul was into the Monarchs hockey organization. To see them go is tough. We wish them well."
Hickey was a first-round pick by L.A. in 2007, taken fourth overall. He battled injuries early in his career but has developed into a good blue liner who can work the power play and penalty kill. Hickey had three goals and nine assists in 33 games with Manchester this season, his fifth in town.
Former Monarchs assistant Scott Pellerin is the head coach of the Islanders affiliate in Bridgeport and Hickey felt Pellerin had helped in the Isles' decision to take him.
"Talking to my agent, he thought there would be some interest there. At the same time, it takes some faith for a team to step up," said Hickey, who was about to begin his drive to Long Island. "When I found out the news, I was ecstatic. I owe Pelly a call on my drive out to New York. Certainly he vouched for me and I'm very thankful for that."
Clune was a fan favorite in Manchester for his toughness and willingness to defend his teammates by dropping the gloves. Clune has been in Manchester for five seasons and has logged 14 games with the Kings.
"I just want to tell the fans that I love them with all my heart and I've had some fun times with them in Manchester and I think when I'm out there on the ice I feed off their energy," said Clune via cell phone from the airport. "It's been unbelievable making friends over the years. I want to thank all the people who touched my life."
Both Clune and Hickey thanked their teammates and the coaching and support staff in Manchester. Clune pointed to Cliche as a major inspiration to him on and off the ice.
"That guy has been a godsend to me," Clune said. "I moved in with him a little over two years ago. Anyone who knows me knows that I struggled away from the rink with some lifestyle challenges. I got that in order and Marc-Andre Cliche has been an unbelievable influence on me."
Both players also called the news bittersweet since they will miss their teammates, but are also understandably excited to start fresh with a new organization.
It is possible that one or both players could return to the Monarchs. If they do not lock down a roster spot with their respective NHL teams and are placed on waivers to be sent to the AHL, the Kings would have the first option to claim them.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.