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"And that was really before cell phones," Clark said. "So I didn't even know right away. I was at an event that day and I remember stopping at a gas station and turning on the radio while I filled up. That's how I found out." Cliff Fletcher was in his first go-around as Leafs GM when he made the deal. "It was the hardest trade I ever had to make," Fletcher told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "But my responsibility was to the team. It had to be done when you were acquiring a just-turning 23-year-old [Sundin] who looked like he was going to be an impact player for the next decade -- which he has more than turned out to be.
"But Wendel came back and finished his career with us and that was a good thing."Clark also understands why the deal was made, but he was indeed thrilled when Fletcher brought him back home in a deal with the Islanders in March 1996. "I brought him back because in my mind he was Mr. Maple Leaf," Fletcher said. I happened to be working Clark's first game back with the Leafs after that trade, and I'll never forget the press box at Maple Leaf Gardens vibrating because of the crowd's eruption a few minutes into the first period. "Yeah, I think it was either my first or second shift when I able to pop one in," said Clark, who scored eight goals in those 13 remaining games with the Leafs that season. That kind of affection from the fans will once again be front and center Saturday night for Mr. Maple Leaf. "Wendel was a 185-pounder who played the game like he was 210," Fletcher said. "He was the ultimate competitor. He had one of the great shots in the game. And the thing I liked about Wendel, you knew the bigger the game, the more you could rely on him to come through for you."