Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly, right, is defended by New York Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck (15) during first-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP)
It’s hard to say that Cal Clutterbuck works a thankless job when he has become such a revered fan favorite among the Islanders nation.
The fourth liner does what not many NHLers are willing to do night in and night: Go to the corners, the dirty areas, throw the body around, agitate the opposition.
It certainly isn’t the easiest line of work. Yet, here Clutterbuck is a week past his 35th birthday and in his 16th NHL season standing alone as the NHL’s all-time leader in hits with 3,635; a record he broke on Monday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It never really entered my thought process at all,” Clutterbuck said on the prospect of owning an NHL record. “I think it just means I was able to do it more consistently for longer, I guess. I’ve been around a while so I put my body out there for 15, 16 years. Even before that in juniors.”
Just the fact that Clutterbuck is still a fixture of the Islanders’ integral fourth line alongside Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin says plenty about the extent of this accomplishment. There have been no shortages of bumps, bruises, knocks, and procedures.
He underwent shoulder surgery during the offseason for an injury that kept him out of the final 23 games last year. In 2019 he took the skate of Boston Bruins star Patrice Bergeron to the wrist — admitting a year and a half later in January of 2021 that he still didn’t have feeling in three of his fingers.
“I’m still here,” Clutterbuck said, staying true to the type of player that doesn’t get lost in the nostalgia nor wax poetic about his career.
But he did admit that there is a source of pride that comes with doing this type of job for this long. He’s spent a decade of his 16 NHL seasons with the Islanders, eclipsing the 200-hit mark 11 times and the 300-hit mark four times.
“It definitely is [a source of pride]. I’m 35 and I play a certain way and I honestly feel like I play the same way at 35 as I did when I was 26,” Clutterbuck said. “There’s pride in that. I still have a lot more left in the tank.”