Local teenager Matt Clark lost his battle with Leukaemia in 1995 but 22 years later, thanks to his friends, family and local community, the young champion’s memory lives on.
If you’re ever driving over Narrabeen Bridge and glance over towards Woolworths, all you’ll see is an ordinary apartment block. But for those old enough to remember, on the corner next to Woolies, lived the infamous Narrabeen Ice Rink.
The rink was an iconic building for over 35 years, until it closed in the late 90s. But even though there hasn’t been a rink there for almost 20 years, the local spirit of ice hockey remains strong; in some way thanks to one kid and his rockstar community.
Mona Vale teenager Matt Clark was a regular at the rink and aged 13 he joined the Warringah Bombers Ice Hockey club. He represented the Australian youth team in 1993, but in 1995, at just 18, Matt lost his battle with leukaemia. “Matt was just a regular guy who loved hockey,” remembers close friend, Paul Hardwick.
“Losing Matt really rocked the community.”After losing their champion son, brother and teammate, Matt’s family and friends launched the Matt Clark Shield match - a memorial ice hockey game to raise much-needed funds for the Leukaemia Foundation.
“The first Matt Clark Shield game was played in 1996 but when Narrabeen rink closed, the shield was packed away,” says ex-Bomber, Mark Gibson. “For many years we talked about bringing it back and finally last year it happened.”
In 2016 the Sydney Ice Dogs took on Adelaide at Liverpool Ice Arena to a massive crowd. The community turned out, the Ice Dogs wore the old Warringah Bombers jerseys bearing Matt’s name, ‘CLARK’, and over $5,000 was raised.
“As soon as we heard there was talk about bringing back Matt’s charity game, we were very keen to get involved,” says Ice Dogs coach, Chris Blagg, an ex-Bomber.
“It was an honour for our whole team,” says Ice Dogs captain, Scotty Stephenson. “We’ve all heard stories of the legendary Bombers teams of the past and now we get to be part of this history ourselves and for such a special cause.”
Now there’s momentum again, Sydney Ice Dogs, say this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever. “We’re really looking forward to packing the house and raising money and of course, we want to win the shield two years in a row,” says Stephenson.
“We’ve got a new home this year at Macquarie Ice Rink,” says Blagg. “It’s a bigger stadium and there’s a bar, so it’s a great atmosphere for fans and players.
“To be able to raise funds for a great cause and help carry the flame for this special game is an honour for me and the players. We have old players come in and talk to the new guys about what this game means to so many people in the ice hockey community.”
The Matt Clark Shield memorial game will be held at Macquarie Ice Arena in Ryde on Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Join Matt’s family and friends as the Sydney Ice Dogs face off against Perth Thunder.
Get your tickets online at: www.icedogs.com.au.
All proceeds from the charity match go to the Leukaemia Foundation.