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Wings' Daley set to play in his 1,000th NHL game

Teammates and coaches excited to celebrate veteran defenseman's big milestone

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- If you were to accompany Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley to the American Airlines Center in Dallas, you would think Daley was a rock star.

People come from everywhere to greet Daley, get a photo with him, give him a hug and welcome him back home to the place his NHL career started.

It isn't just the hockey people who eagerly wait to say hello, it's everyone - security people, concession workers, longtime ushers and vendors.

"That was his uniqueness. He connected with pretty much everybody and he treated everybody well," said Les Jackson, Stars senior advisor to the general manager. "Anytime there was something we needed to do in the community, Trevor was always one of the people that the organizations wanted.

"He just has that ability to connect with people, even with youth hockey and that in Dallas, he was always real open to helping the coaches and the different players that were practicing or whatever event they had. Trevor was always a big supporter of everything with the organization. In a lot of ways, that was pretty unique and special."

The Dallas Stars selected Daley in the second round, 43rd overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and he spent the first 11 seasons and 756 games of his career in Dallas.

On Sunday night, Daley will skate in his 1,000th career game in the place where everything began, his hometown of Toronto.

Daley, 35, will become the 330th player in league history to reach that magnificent milestone.

Daley's first game took place Oct. 25, 2003, just 16 days after his 20th birthday. The Stars earned a 3-2 victory in Columbus and Daley played 12:36, had four shots, took one minor penalty and was plus-1.

None of Daley's Stars teammates from that game is still playing in the NHL. None of the Blue Jackets players from that game plays in the NHL anymore either.

One of Daley's teammates from that first game was Pierre Turgeon, whose son Dominic has played with Daley on the Wings.

Jackson has been with the Stars organization for 31 years, back to their Minnesota days, and he remembers Daley from when he first saw him play for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

"Then when he came into development camp, like a lot of young kids that would have to learn the process of being a pro and making that next lifestyle change into being a pro, he was one of the first guys to grasp the whole concept and took the role that was presented to him by our development guys, our fitness guys and he really turned himself into a solid pro," Jackson said. "As a junior, he was a scoring-type of player and as he moved up, he became more of a defensive, two-way type player.

"From what I can remember, every time we called a young guy up from the minors, Trevor always got him. He was a good mentor for a lot of young kids along the way. He was an exceptional person for us."

Daley, who is in his second season of a three-year deal with the Wings, has not stopped helping young players, especially young defensemen.

Dennis Cholowski, in his rookie season with the Wings, is 20 years old, the same age Daley was when he made his NHL debut 15 years ago.

Cholowski said Daley is a special player and a great role model to have in the dressing room.

"Just his overall leadership and calmness. He's just your consummate leader, I guess you could say," Cholowski said. "He just walks around the room with an air of confidence. He'll help you with anything you need. I went out to dinner with him (the other) night and we were talking and having fun. He's a great guy. Obviously I watched him growing up, too, so he's a big mentor for me. Playing his 1,000th game, that's a huge accomplishment and I'm definitely going to congratulate him."

Cholowski said the dinner group consisted of Daley, Cholowski, fellow rookie Christoffer Ehn and young veteran Dylan Larkin. Ehn and Larkin are both 22.

Jackson would not be surprised to hear that Daley continues to welcome young players onto the team.

"He was always there when we called guys in or there were trades made," Jackson said. "He was always one of those guys that would accept people in, try to make it comfortable and help them transitioning to the group. But generally, he was like that with everybody. He's just a solid guy. I'm sure the trainers and the equipment people, all our support staff, they all loved him. He was just one of those kind of guys that you wanted on your team."

It's no shock that Daley is beloved by everyone behind the scenes because even though he's a highly respected player in the league, he's not one who draws attention to himself.

Defenseman Nick Jensen is another Wing who has observed Daley and learned from just being around him.

"He's obviously a great leader," Jensen said. "You can tell just by watching him on the ice, how mature he is at the game and how long he's been around. He's just so smart with the puck and he's so smart on when to play defense and when to get up in the play. You never really notice that he's up in the play until you see him scoring a goal. He's very quiet in that sense but he's very effective."

The Stars traded Daley, along with Ryan Garbutt, to the Chicago Blackhawks for Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns on July 10, 2015.

Five months later, the Blackhawks traded Daley to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Rob Scuderi.

That trade worked out very well for Daley as he won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins that 2015-16 season and again in 2016-17.

"That was a silver lining for me because after what he'd been through, the tough times and that, getting to see him get rewarded for what he's done for the game was really special," Jackson said. "It was almost like winning it yourself because he was such a good guy.

"You couldn't be happier for a guy."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill often mentions how important it is to have veterans around to help show young players how to be a professional, both on and off the ice.

So Blashill welcomed the opportunity to have a player like Daley join the Wings.

"First off, I think it's a great accomplishment to be in this league and be as successful as he's been, win two Cups, it's awesome," Blashill said. "He's a great pro, works hard every day, shows up to play every day. As good a pro as he is, he might be a better person. He's just an outstanding human being. So I really have enjoyed being around him."

Daley would no doubt have reached 1,000 games far sooner if it hadn't been for lockouts and injuries, including injuries this season that have caused him to miss nine games.

"I think that's even more incredible," Jackson said. "Because facing the injuries he's had, I'm sure he would have hit 1,000 games long before this. But he's had some big setbacks injury-wise, so to play through those and get to 1,000 games is pretty incredible. Not many people can play 1,000 games and win two Cups and have the career he has. He's such a great family guy. He's connected on all those facets."

Jensen, 28, will be playing in his 167th game as Daley plays in his 1,000th.

"Seeing him getting his 1,000th game is exciting that I get to kind of be a part of that a little bit with him and be there for him because he's a great guy off the ice obviously and even better player on the ice," Jensen said.

That's what everyone who knows Daley always comes back to, the kind of person he is even more than what a fine player he has been for such a long time.

"He even treated my own kids with respect and was always there and always checking on how they were doing," Jackson said. "Besides being a very capable player, he was just a good human being. He cared a lot about everybody and if you hadn't seen him for a while, he was always checking to make sure you were doing okay and everything. He's just a real special guy, a guy you always want to be around.

"When he left here, it was a tough day for our group because he meant so much to, not only our team but our organization."

Daley's legacy, besides the 1,000 games, 300 points and two Stanley Cups, will be in the many people whose lives he has touched along the way.

"I think in this business, it's important to stay true to who you are and he has done that for sure," Blashill said. "He's an excellent person, very, very humble, very, very, very caring. That's why he'd have the effect on people that he's had. I know personally, my goal in life is to have great impact on other people and that certainly is the approach that Trevor seems to have taken."

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