The Dallas Morning News
Daley keeps his balance
Young, rising Star says he considers himself lucky to have grown up poor in Toronto TREVOR DALEY
Trevor Daley is just trying to keep things in perspective. On one hand, he’s a well-paid, 22-year-old professional hockey player. On the other, he harbors memories of growing up poor near a Toronto housing project. That’s why he asked the Stars to include him in events such as a recent outing where the Stars Foundation helped stock a back-to-school charity store in Lewisville.
“My mom worked really hard to get me a new pair of jeans or a new pair of shoes for school, and I know just what that means to a kid in that situation,” Daley said.
Daley enters his second full NHL season as an established defenseman. When the Stars begin training camp Sept. 14, he will be one of several young players the team is counting on to make up for the loss of key veterans who left in the off-season.
Daley drives a Cadillac Escalade and is helping his 15-year-old sister, Tereen, get her first new car. He still visits his friends in Regent Park, the oldest public housing project in Toronto. He confers with his agent, hockey legend Bobby Orr, about his decision to reject the Stars’ $501,600 qualifying offer. Daley and Orr think he deserves more money. Yet, he has vivid memories of the days not so long ago when $100 seemed like all the money in the world.
“As much as this sounds strange, I was really lucky to come from where I did,” Daley said. “There were a lot of bad things happening around me and a lot of places where you could get into trouble, but I also had a lot of people looking out for me.”
Daley has squeezed a lot of life into 22 years. His mother Trudy grew up in a family of nine kids near the Regent Park project. She gave birth to Trevor when she was 19. His father, Trevor, wasn’t able to support them in the early years.
“So I tried to get a cheap apartment and do my best, but after about a year of that, my parents came and took [son] Trevor to their house and told me that I needed to come there, too,” Trudy said. “I grew up, went out and got a job, and we made it from there.”
Daley’s mom started as a credit consultant at a bank and worked her way up. Still, the hours were long and the pay only so-so, so they stayed in a cramped but loving house that typically had 10 people or more in it. Trevor lived in a room with his uncle Donald, who was 10 years his senior, and followed him around.
That’s how he became a hockey player. Donald Harris played in the youth leagues and eventually made it to the Junior A level, and along the way, he taught Trevor the game.
“I just tagged along, and he was nice enough to take me,” Daley said. “For a while, we played pretty much every day.”
Daley played a lot of pick-up hockey on outdoor rinks, and that’s where he forged the freewheeling game that enticed the Stars to take him in the second round (43rd overall) in 2002.
“I wasn’t a great skater, so I told him that was the first thing he had to do,” Harris said. “And you can tell now, he’s worked on it a lot.”
While Daley’s mom was always there with guidance, she said that Uncle Donald and grandpa Ralph provided the hammer.
“I remember one time he wore a new pair of shoes through a puddle, and Donald took them away for a week,” Trudy Daley said. “He wanted him to respect that it took a lot to buy those shoes.”
Harris also helped Daley cope with being a black hockey player, a rarity even in inner-city Toronto.
Daley was picked up by an elite traveling team when he was 9, and he found himself in a melting pot. His coach, Spence Kirton, was black, and he had teammates who were Italian, Asian and Jewish.
“In one of the seasons there, I think he went to four bar mitzvahs,” Trudy Daley said. “He loved it. I think he really enjoyed learning about the culture of the other players.”
Daley said there were problems in the housing project with drugs and gangs. But the adults looked out for each other and their children.
“He was the captain of pretty much every team he was on when I had him, and I think a lot of that came from having to grow up a little faster than the rest,” said Kirton, who coached Daley until he was 14. “He saw things that others didn’t.”
That helped Daley through the most challenging experience of his life a few years later. Daley played four seasons for the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League.
Daley was captain, and after a 6-1 loss to Guelph in 2003, Greyhounds coach John Vanbiesbrouck expressed his anger with Daley’s performance to two white teammates. Vanbiesbrouck later admitted using a racial epithet on several occasions in reference to Daley.
The teammates went straight to Daley. Orr told Daley to leave the team and alert the commissioner of the OHL.
“I saw a very hurt young man who wants no part of this and didn’t ask for it,” commissioner David Branch said at the time.
Trudy Daley said the incident cut Trevor to the core. He respected Vanbiesbrouck, a former NHL goalie, and was good friends with his wife and kids. Daley said his upbringing helped him fight through the incident, as did a trip home to Toronto.
“It was tough for a couple of days, but honestly, I just looked around me and realized how much more that people were dealing with in life,” he said. “I just said, ‘If this is the worst thing that’s happening to me, then I’ve got it pretty good.’ ”
Vanbiesbrouck issued a public apology, quit as coach and sold his share of the team. He has not returned to coaching, and Daley said he has not talked to his former coach.
“I know that was a really tough time for Trevor, but I also think it helped show what kind of person he is,” said Les Jackson, the Stars’ assistant general manager. “Trevor Daley is a very good hockey player, but he’s an even better person.”
That’s why Daley would rather talk about the Stars Foundation’s charities than his contract negotiations.
“I told them we need to do something around Christmastime, too,” Position: Defenseman Shoots: Left Born: Oct 10, 1983, Toronto Notable: Scored three goals and 10 points in 15 playoff games as a rookie on the Soo Greyhounds in 1999-2000. … Finished fourth on the Greyhounds in scoring in 2002-03 with 20 goals and 53 points. … Made his NHL debut Oct. 25, 2003, against Columbus. … Ranked third on Hamilton Bulldogs in scoring (34 points) during NHL lockout in 2004-05. … Ranked eighth on the Stars in average time on ice in 2005-06 at 18:40. Played 81 games and scored 14 points. Etc.: Favorite athlete is Shaquille O’Neal and is a fan of the Miami Heat. … Sports idols growing upwere Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. he said. “It would be even better if we could do things where we give the stuff to the parents and then let them give it to the kids. I think it means more that way.”