Cleary continues to contribute off ice
While he’s still listed as a roster player for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, all signs point to Danny Cleary serving as more of a mentor and player-coach this season. It could point the way towards what’s in store for his postretirement career.
Danny Cleary got into a hockey game recently, but it won’t change the 0 games played, 0-0-0 stats line next to the Riverhead, Harbour Grace native’s name.
The game, played earlier this month, was a fundraiser, the 12th annual sledge hockey matchup between Cleary’s Grand Rapids Griffins and Grand Rapids Sled Wings, a team made up of children and teens who have physical disabilities.
Cleary is listed on the Griffins’ roster, has a stall in the Grand Rapids locker room and participates in practices. But he has yet to play a regular-season game for the American Hockey League team in 2016-17, and is always officially listed as a veteran scratch, as part of adherence to AHL rules regarding how many players with a designated amount of pro experience can dress for each game.
This is widely seen as part of Cleary’s move from player (he appeared in 35 games with the Griffins last season) to some other role in the game, possibly in player development or in a coaching role for the Detroit Red Wings organization in which he’s belonged to the last dozen seasons.
But there are other contrib-
“If I was healthy, maybe it would be a harder transition. But I’m good with all this.”
— Danny Cleary
uting factors to his non-playing status. The Griffins, leaders of the AHL’s Western Conference, are particularly deep at forward, there’s that veteran issue and, perhaps most tellingly, the 38-year-old Cleary continues to deal with what are now chronic knee, groin and shoulder issues.
“If I was healthy, maybe it would be a harder transition. But I’m good with all this,” Cleary recently told mlive’s Peter J. Wallner.
On the team, he is seen as sort of an unofficial assistant to bench boss Todd Nelson — not exactly playing coach, maybe more of a practising coach.
“For all of us young kids, it’s a big help,” Griffins rookie Dominic Turgeon told Wallner. “Whether it’s at practice or after practice, he’s showing us things that we can adjust to or do better.
“He’s one of the boys.” Nelson echoes that comment. “His role is (to) practice with us every day and be a mentor for the young kids on and off the ice,” Nelson told Wallner. “Being a professional hockey player is more than what you do on the ice. It’s a way of life ... how you conduct yourself off the ice, how you treat your body and people, in general.
“Danny’s been a great mentor in that regard.”
And Cleary has gone beyond accepting his role — he’s taking pride in it.
“Satisfaction for me is watching future Red Wings get better,” he said. “I’m always talking to them about little things. Not like a dad or anything, but if I see something, I go and tell them. It’s always a good positive message to help them get better.”
Danny Cleary hasn’t dressed for any American Hockey League games with the Grand Rapids Griffins this season, but did recently participate in the Griffins’ annual sledge hockey fundraiser.
Daniel Cleary is spending a second year with the Detroit Red Wings’ farm team as an unofficial player/coach.