The Red Wings open the season tonight with a number of new faces in the lineup, including 26-year-old Dan Cleary, who signed a one-year deal Tuesday.
The 13th overall pick by the Blackhawks in the 1997 Entry Draft has seen action in the pros since his rookie season. After two years in Chicago he was dealt to Edmonton and enjoyed his best season in 2000-01, tallying 35 points in 81 games.
After four seasons in Edmonton, Cleary moved to Phoenix for the 2003-04 campaign. He came into camp on a tryout basis and impressed the coaching staff enough the win a spot on the Wings roster.
DetroitRedWings.com had a chance to catch up with Cleary today and talk about his role in Detroit.DRW.com: Take us from August when you were invited to camp until now. Cleary:
Well the whole process, once I found out that Phoenix was going to go a different direction with me, I obviously was trying to find the right situation. I trained over the summer with (Chris) Chelios and (Mathieu) Schneider so that was one of the big reasons. Schneider is a huge fan of Detroit and a huge fan of me so that was one of the things that got me in the door here. I came into camp with an open mind and a good work ethic and made the team.DRW.com: Was that your attitude heading into training camp? It was apparent that were a few roster spots open on the team. Was that at the back of your mind when you came in?Cleary:
Obviously yeah it was in the back of my mind. There were obviously a lot of players at camp who wanted to make the team as well, and I just tried to work as hard as I could and I always knew I had the skills to play. I've played the last six or seven years so I knew I could do it. It's just a question of being focused mentally and physically ready and I was, and that's a big reason why I made (the team)."DRW.com: Were there any times during the preseason when you knew that things were going well for you and that you might win one of the open roster spots?Cleary:
Well, I played eight games out of nine preseason game, me and (Johan) Franzen, so we had a lot of opportunity and I felt good from the drop of the puck in game one and I just knew that things take care of themselves if you're ready physically and mentally. I knew that they would. I just went out and did what I do best and I'm very, very excited. When they told me I made the team it was like it was back when I was 18 trying out for my first team so it was pretty exciting.DRW.com: Your thoughts on opening night and the opening of the new NHL season?Cleary:
It's cool every night, every season, but tonight with all 30 teams in action for the first time in history I just think that this whole year is going to be different for everyone, even players, everybody. I think it's just a new feel for hockey, and it's been a long time coming, to be honest. I'm excited. If I was a fan I'd be excited. I mean with all the different movement in the league, different faces, different teams, it's just exciting. The rule changes, it's just so fast, it's going to be great for fans.