Tuesday, February 03, 2015


Daniel Cleary: Still Lacing up the Skates

More than twenty years ago, in 1993, Daniel Cleary left Newfoundland to pursue a hockey career. His first stop was in Kingston when he was fourteen years old. He played for the Voyageurs in the old Metro Junior Hockey League. He amassed 46 points that season, in 43 games. Coach Larry Mavety and team owner of the Belleville Bulls Dr. Bob Vaughan liked what they saw, and drafted Daniel to play for the Bulls.

Cleary had a remarkable career in Belleville, honing his skills, learning the ropes. It was obvious to those of us who attended the games that he would be an outstanding professional player, once his junior career had ended. Cleary passed the puck effectively, so-called “saucer passes” on the tape. His shot was hard. He owned the puck behind the net, often surprising teammates waiting in front of the net with his deft passes. Above all, he was a great skater, not terribly fast, mind you, but really strong, well-balanced.

                                                 Red Wing Defenceman, Kyle Quincey

Daniel dressed for his 12th game of the year recently in Florida. When you consider that the Wings have played 50 games, you realize that Cleary has been used sparingly. He adjusted to the situation before the season began. “This is what you have to do. If you bring a bad attitude to the rink, that’s no good. You have to bring a good attitude, a good work ethic. Listen, no one likes not to play, no matter what age, what level you’re at. Everyone wants to play, and just be a pro about it.”

In the game against the Panthers, Cleary lined up with Joakim Andersson and Drew Miller. In the first period, eight minutes into the game, Miller snatched the puck from Panthers’ rookie Aaron Ekblad, cruised in alone and slid the puck under a sprawling Roberto Luongo. The goal was short-handed, and those things always hurt. The Wings fell behind, and trailed 2-1 at the end of the first period. Former Panther Stephen Weiss caught fire in the second period, scoring once and assisting on two others.

The Panthers recovered from a 5-2 deficit, scoring twice, and pressured the Wings near the end of the third period. Goalie Jimmy Howard is scurrently on the hurt list; however, Peter Mrazek is playing very well in his stead. He shut the door, winning his tenth game with three losses. The Wings are climbing the standings in the Eastern Conference, and are only three points out of first place overall.

As he always does, Cleary asked me to say hello to the folks back home. He has fond memories from his days in BelleVegas. He is in the midst of his tenth season in the Motor City, following stints in Chicago, Edmonton, and Phoenix. Coach Babcock values his presence with the team: “Having veteran guys around that know how to play, that know what to expect, and know what young guys need to learn to become good pros…that is so important. Young guys have to have the success disease all the time. The Red Wing way is that you do it every day, and you do it right. It doesn’t happen by accident. Having good veterans around is the key.”

As the season winds down, Cleary will bide his time, waiting for the opportunity to ply the trade, a trade he knows very well. “You certainly have to keep the game simple, make sure you’re moving your feet out there. It’s not easy to play sporadically. It’s tough, but it is what it is”. Kudos to Mr. Cleary.

James Hurst
February 3, 2015 


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