2020 21 njt jamie clarke feature

To summit or succumb

A renowned extreme adventurer who has circled the globe to chase his passion, Jamie Clarke has brought his energy, his wisdom and his stories to Canada’s National Junior Team

Madison Koekkoek
December 17, 2020

“I have a hockey name. I think they call me Clarkey. Do you have a hockey name?” Jamie Clarke asks with the genuine pride of a Canadian hockey fan.

Clarkey, as he’s come to be known around Canada’s National Junior Team, is more than the average fan – he is an adventurer who, among many other achievements, has climbed the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.

But that simply forms the basis of his credentials. What captivates you in the time you get to spend with Clarke is his energy, his zest for life, his uncanny storytelling ability and the way he draws parallels between his world of extreme adventuring and the hockey world.

Scott Salmond, senior vice-president of national teams with Hockey Canada, knew the lessons – and the oomph with which Clarke delivers them – would be critical for the challenges of Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp, particularly after players and staff went into a 14-day quarantine.

But Clarke didn’t just want to speak to this year’s crop of World Juniors hopefuls. He wanted to bring value that would sustain – not just through camp, quarantine and the tournament, but along their hockey journeys.

“When you pull all these global factors, pandemic across the world, inequity across our planet, and think here are these men, stuck in their rooms, their dream hanging in the balance, what would that be like? And how can I help?”

And so Clarke began to draw the parallels between extreme adventuring, life and death situations, and selection camp in an unprecedented year amidst a global pandemic.

“The thing that sprung to my mind was those moments when I’ve been stuck on the side of a mountain in a tent, unable to go up or down,” he says. “And filled with so much unknown…” What was the distinguishing factor for Clarke? What does he see as the determinant factor of whether one succeeds or succumbs?

The mind game. Mental fortitude. The management of your state. He goes on to explain that it’s not external factors or other people cheering you up that make the difference in trying times.

“You need your coaches, parents, everyone … because we depend on each other as a team,” he says. “But that’s what I wanted to wrap up in these stories of adventure and give the fellas a sense of that. You’re going to go on an emotional roller coaster – expect it. But it ultimately comes down to you. You’re grateful for the pats on the back, you’re grateful for encouragement, you’re grateful for Hockey Canada staff. But you have to know it. And when you go through that, there’s no shortcut, there’s no book to read, there’s no affirmation you put on a sticky note on your mirror that tells you that you’re battle tested. You have to go through it.”

He attributes it to a shift in perspective, a slight alteration rather than getting scared or intimidated.

Mental fortitude – plus his signature phrase, ‘Be urgent with your tactics, patient with the outcome’ – couldn’t possibly hold more relevance to journey Team Canada has taken thus far. In fact, it’s something head coach André Tourigny has integrated into his practices and film sessions after listening to Clarke speak for the first time.

“We need to focus on the task right now, when you go into this kind of competition or intensity… focusing on what you can control is a big key,” says Tourginy. “Part of our philosophy is to focus on the present; all the noise around could be the expectation, distraction. We cannot focus on that because we can’t have control over that.”

He notes how valuable it is for players to have heard those lessons from a world-class perspective. “With [Clarke’s] presentation, it hit home for the players and they know it’s relevant. He’s been in high-pressure moments and tough situations and knows how to react.”

That’s something defenceman Kaedan Korczak, echoes, adding that he was drawn to Clarke’s persistence at facing challenges he had previously failed at.

“I think that was good for us to hear, because we know we’re going to have to go through adversity at some point in the tournament,” Korczak says, “and just hearing the way Jamie and his teammates handled things was incredible.”

Thomas Harley, another Team Canada blueliner, says that Clarke’s empathic speaking style left him with lessons about teamwork and trust: “He really stressed how important these two things were to success and how without them we would fail.”

Clarke will continue along the journey of the 2021 World Juniors with the team, slotted to speak to the group via Zoom again this week.

If Miley Cyrus insisted it’s all about the climb, Clarke assures us that moving mountains as large as the 2021 World Juniors amidst a global pandemic begins with a strong state of mind.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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