Despite being lost for the first 10 games of the regular season for leaving the bench to join an altercation, David Clarkson is taking a positive approach to his suspension, saying the on-ice brawl between the Sabres and Leafs on Sunday night has worked to unite the club.
“It brings you together, it unites everybody. I'm hoping that's what this did. I think it's going to carry us a long way,” Clarkson said on TSN Radio 1050 Wednesday afternoon.
“And I think for teams to be successful that's the type of locker room you need to have – you have to have each other's back.”
The rugged winger was apologetic, but at the same time proud of the way his team responded to an incident which resulted in star forward Phil Kessel being banned for the remainder of the pre-season and Sabres coach Ron Rolston fined for “player selection and team conduct.”
“The phone calls that I got from around the league, my teammates thanking me, that means more than what anyone else says. We'll move on from this, we'll squash it and I'll push these guys to be ready and when I get back I'll be raring to go.”
In trying to explain the reasoning behind his decision to leave the bench upon seeing the Sabres six-foot-eight enforcer John Scott initiate a confrontation with Kessel, Clarkson said his instincts took over.
“It's a tough because if you felt like your brother or your sister or a family member was in trouble what would your reaction be?
“I think what I got out of it was to next time to use my head and not my heart, but I went with my heart. I think I've got to where I am by playing with my heart and using my heart a lot and I think that was a reaction with my heart.”
The Mimico, ON native who signed a seven-year, $36.75-million with his hometown team in the off-season will now be forced to make his debut on Oct. 25 in Columbus.
“All I can do now is to push these guys in practice…I will be the biggest supporter and I'm hoping to travel with the day, but I'll be ready for that day when it comes."
Being undrafted after spending three years with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers, the 29-year-old's path to the NHL has not come easy and he is confident his past experiences will help him deal with the pressure that comes with signing a lucrative free agent deal.
“If I came here when I was younger in my career it may be different, but now I have a very supportive family at home and I'm coming here and I'm going to be myself. I'm not changing for anybody, I don't care what the situation is.
“I know what made me successful. It's going to the front of the net, it's creating plays creating room on the ice, blocking shots.”
Despite the suspension, his time in Toronto has been a positive one thus far and he feels like the Leafs are primed to build upon the team's first playoff berth in nearly a decade.
"We've got something special going on in this room. We've got a great group of guys, we're going in the right path, we're going in the right direction.
“Hopefully this shows everyone in the league that we're together.”