– Red Wings forward Danny Cleary
is much more than just a hockey player to his home province in Canada.
As the only Stanley Cup champion from the country’s most eastern province, Cleary is already the most-celebrated hockey son in Newfoundland and Labrador. Now he's immortalized in a painting, which was commissioned by the government.
Canadian artist James Long created the painting, which measures 27x21 inches and features three action images of Cleary, including one of the veteran forward skating with the Stanley Cup during the Red Wings’ 2008 celebration in Pittsburgh.
The provincial government provided each school with a framed limited-edition reproduction of Long’s work last September. The government asked school officials, from kindergarten through Grade 12, to hang the painting – which is titled ‘Believe in Yourself’ – in a prominent location in their buildings.
“I immediately spoke with Dick Power who coached Danny all through his life here in Newfoundland," said Long, in a phone interview with DetroitRedWings.com. "So I met up with him in Harbour Grace and we went over a lot of stuff and went through the S.W. Moores Arena where Danny played and was trying to show his background, where he was a Newfoundlander and what he had gone through.
"I tried my best to get all of that in there, so I’ve got the old rafters of the arena and tried to blend it in there with the rafters of Joe Louis Arena and the Stanley Cup banner. I just tried to get all of those accomplishments all together in one image.”
Earlier this month, Cleary hosted a group of high school students at Joe Louis Arena from his hometown. The Gonzaga Vikings, a prep hockey team from St. John’s, the capital city, was in town to play in a youth tournament. Cleary has a cousin on the Gonzaga team.
“When you’re younger, the NHL is always the pinnacle,” Cleary told the student-athletes. “You grow up watching it and admiring it and hope one day you can get there.”
During their visit to Detroit, the Vikings enjoyed watching the Red Wings as they prepared for a game that evening against the Edmonton Oilers. As Cleary’s guests that night, they got to soak in the NHL atmosphere, as well as watch the Wings bounce back to post a 2-1 victory in overtime.
“Fortunately for me, I was able to get here,” Cleary said, “and you hope those kids have the same dreams.”
To learn more about the painting -- which is not available to the general public -- and its artist, visit JamesLong.ca