SPIRIT THIS WEEK: NINE-DAY BREAK ENDS WITH VISIT FROM MARK...
Date: Sep 20, 2018
Kyle Clarke of the North York Rangers with his mother Shelley and father Les during a special pregame ceremony honouring the franchise’s graduating players earlier this season. (Photo by Andy Corneau / OJHL Images)
At age 4, Kyle Clarke was told his asthma may prevent him from playing hockey.
The cold air wouldn’t be good for a youngster with the inflammatory disease of the airways of the lung.
“But hockey was my passion,” the two-year captain of the North York Rangers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League said this week.
He’d be “in and out of hospital” for years dealing with his asthma.
But he kept playing, continuing to take daily medication to this day.
And spreading the word.
Since 2006, Clarke, who turns 21 on Sunday, has been an ambassador and spokesperson for the Lung Association.
“Speaking to parents and kids on how to cope with asthma and not let it hold you from the things you want to do,” he explained. “You can still live an active lifestyle.”
He’s done TV and newspaper interviews for the cause.
Clarke was named Humanitarian of the Year in the OJHL – for the second straight year – this week.
“I really feel hockey has helped my asthma, he said. “I love it.”
His volunteer work extends further.
The Mississauga resident is taking a third trip to the Dominican Republic with Live Different, a non-profit that helps build houses and communities in impoverished nations, this summer. In Sosua, DR, he has already helped build four homes and a school. Clarke raised more than $5,000 to contribute to these builds.
“It was a very humbling and rewarding experience to help improve the lives of others,” he said.
Rangers general manager Claude Desjardins is a big Kyle Clarke fan.
“He’s just that kind of kid,” the GM said. “He’s amazing. He represents all the goodwill that this league needs and preaches. He is a great role model for young hockey players and what their life should be about away from the rink.”
As a Ranger, Clarke helps run the NYR JrA Minor Novice- Novice Development Program” on Wednesday nights during hockey season.
“We love it and the kids love it,” Clarke said. “Because we’re really not adults, they’re different around us than coaches. It’s fun and the kids are great.”
Clarke is in his fifth and final year of junior hockey – a self-described “old man” on the Rangers’ roster.
“I owe the OJHL and the Rangers a lot,” said the former Toronto Red Wing minor hockey player. “I really wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
Clarke has totalled 130 points in 196 OJHL games.
He’s not done. His Rangers lead the Georgetown Raiders 3-1 in their second-round playoff series. Game 5 goes Friday in Georgetown.
Clarke has committed to play for the University of Toronto Blues in U Sports next season.
North York teammate James Fletcher was runner-up for the humanitarian award. In his second year with the Rangers, Fletcher organizes fundraisers for the Take Action Group, which funds projects for the impoverished in India. The 18-year-old from Brampton has also worked as a day camp mentor.