"One of the guys from Dallas said, 'If you start fights like you did in junior and don't finish 'em, you'll never make it, you're never even going to last in the American League.' I was, all right, I'm basically going to figure out every way how to lose a hockey fight until I stop losing. I'm going to fight until I stop losing. I still lose fights, but the only way you're going to get better at it is through experience, so it's been six years and I've pretty much figured out every way to get beat up," Clune said.
He fought Todd Fedoruk, who in his prime was one of the more ferocious fighters in the game, in his first NHL exhibition game as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
"I thought [Kings GM] Dean Lombardi was going to have a heart attack," Clune recalled.
"I think it was my second game. We might have been up by a goal or two and I might have kind of hit someone and he kind of just came out of nowhere and grabbed me and it wasn't much of a fight. We threw like one or two punches each and kind of lost our balance and tried to maul each other on the ice basically. That was my first one," Clune said.
Another bit of advice Clune got early in his pro career? There are only three times fans stand up during a hockey game: the national anthem, a goal and a fight.
"So when you're a young guy and you hear that, I wasn't scared. I knew I could do it, so why wouldn't I? I want to play in the NHL. It's what I've wanted to do since I was a little kid," Clune said.
"And where a lot of people turned and basically quit or didn't do what it takes, I've just done the steps I thought I needed to take, took the steps I needed to take."
Not all fights are created equal, of course. Sometimes there is baggage, a score to settle or just someone who's been antagonizing, needling, trying to stir up some trouble. And the strategy from fight to fight changes, too.
"Like Brookbank's a taller guy, so I want to pull his head down to my level. That's my instant thought. I know he's tall. Or I want to punch up," Clune said.
"I've fought fights where I haven't put up any defense. You and the other guy kind of challenge each other as far as, all right who can get the better shots off. But in that instance [with Brookbank], for me it's like, OK that guy's been trying to fight me for a couple of years now and he's always basically verbally abused me on the ice. I didn't fight him last year mainly because the times he wanted to go there was no point in doing it. He never thought I would stand up to him and, in that instance, I neutralized his arms and I put him in a position where I could hit him with his head down, and I did it. He was asking for it and the stuff the guy says to me on the ice and it pisses me off, so.
"But then there's also times where you're going up against a guy you have respect for and it's just competing. A lot of people use that term 'fight', fight, fighting, fighting, fighting. I like to use the term 'competing' a lot. Because you're just competing; competing on a job. I'm competing against a guy who's trained to do it. I'm not fighting a guy that doesn't know what he's doing. I'm fighting a guy he has abilities, he knows what's going on. We're both either trying to get our team in the game -- there's some reason you fight -- and we're just competing, it's a sport.