The Free Press’s Helene St. James interviewed assistant player developer Daniel Cleary ahead of this weekend’s NHL draft lottery, where Cleary will be sequestered behind closed doors where the lottery actually takes place.
Cleary touched upon a wide range of topics, from his position with the team to his post-career injuries:
Q: You had quite the NHL career. First-round draft pick (13th overall in 1997, Chicago), but came to Detroit in 2005 on a tryout. You turned that into nearly a 10-year stay, including three 20-goal seasons and a Stanley Cup. You finished your playing career with Grand Rapids, as a player-coach. Now you’re in player development. How have your playing days helped the transition to your new role?
A: For me, I’m a good soundboard for a lot of these guys in terms of perseverance and not giving up. I talk to our guys a lot about it. I got a tryout here, found my niche. I was so dialed in and it became a full time gig. I fully embraced the culture. I watched what Kris Draper and Nick Lidstrom and Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan did and thought, that’s what I have to do. We had a great run. I love Detroit, l love the Red Wings, I love being a part of it. I love this job. I want the Wings to be great again, and I am fully invested in that.
Q: Do you still play now and then?
A: No. I just had cornea transplant surgery in February. I’ve been told I shouldn’t play, because I could lose the eye with any hit. My left eye had a scratch that was bothersome for a lot of years. That was from fighting Chris Pronger in 2008. I got clipped as I was getting up. I see Pronger now and then and chuckle, wonder what I was doing. The guy is huge.
I need knee replacement surgery, two shoulder surgeries. My knee is by far the worst, but I still work out.