"It's good for the kids to get a chance to see a practice, and you never know, one of those guys could play in the NHL.”
— Detroit Red Wing Danny Cleary in a March 11th interview with the Detroit News regarding the Gonzaga High School hockey team from St. John’s, which was in Detroit for a tournament. Cleary invited the team to a pre-game skate and tour of the locker room at the Joe Louis Arena.
Danny Cleary was the hero Friday night (March 11th) when the Detroit Red Wings came from behind to defeat the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1, in overtime at the Joe Louis Arena.
The win snapped Detroit’s four-game losing streak.
Cleary may not have been on the scoring sheet, but he was a big factor in the game, and a hero to the young men from Gonzaga High School, who were in Detroit March 10th-13 for the Motown Cup Hockey Series.
Cleary invited the young players, coaches and parents to a pre-game skate, and, later, to the Detroit dressing room.
For the boys, it was an unforgettable experience.
Cleary spent some time with the team, signing autographs and talking hockey.
He also gave the team one of his game sticks.
Cleary signs the names of his daughters — Elle and Lola — on the butt end of each stick.
“He (Cleary) is a good guy,” is how one of the Gonzaga players put it.
There's no higher praise.
My son, Ben, plays on the Gonzaga team and described the Detroit/Edmonton game as the “best game anyone will ever see.”
Detroit was down 1-0 until the final 26 seconds of the third, when Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstom tied the game.
Two minutes into overtime and the capacity crowd at the Joe Louis Arena went “crazy” when Journey’s Don’t stop believin’ played over the loud speaker.
Then, 4:17 into overtime, Pavel Datsyuk dragged the puck around a sliding Oiler and beat the Edmonton goalie with a wrist shot.
The place reportedly went mental.
The Gonzaga Vikings placed third in their tournament, winning 2 of 4 games — including one played at the Joe Louis Arena.
The young men from Newfoundland can compete with teams anywhere.
The team got some coverage in the Detroit press, complete with a few mistakes.
“Danny Cleary plays host to 13-year-olds from Newfoundland,” read the headline in the Detroit News.
Keep in mind Gonzaga is a high school — there are no 13-year-olds on the team.
Ben Cleary was also described as Danny Cleary’s nephew.
The two are actually cousins.
The hockey gene skipped me completely and lodged in Ben’s soft hands.
The 2008 book, Forward Thinking, The Danny Cleary Story, by The Telegram’s Brendan McCarthy is a great read.
Danny Cleary was the first Newfoundlander to win the Stanley Cup as a key member of the 2008 Red Wings.
My favourite Danny Cleary quote wasn’t from him directly, but from a TSN commentator.
In commenting on a fight between Cleary and then-Anaheim Duck Chris Pronger, the commentator had this to say:
“There’s a six-inch height difference … which Cleary makes up for by being from Newfoundland.”
I cut out the quote from the newspaper and have it taped to the side of the fridge.
Fisherman's Road, the sign at the top of this blog, is one of the main roads in Riverhead, Harbour Grace.
I grew up off Fisherman's Road, as did Danny.
There's no better place in all the world.