Born December 18, 1978 (age 32) in Carbonear, Newfoundland, Canada
Winger for the Detroit Red Wings
We haven’t looked at any Red Wings lately and since they played today, why not? Cleary was born in Carbonear because that’s where the hospital was, but he was raised nearby in Harbour Grace, which is where he began playing hockey, making the jump to Kingston and being selected by the Belleville Bulls. He did very well with the Bulls, getting a hatty in his very first game as a mere 16-year-old. Chicago drafted him 13th overall in 1997, but he played very little for the big show and spent much time with the Portland Pirates and Hamilton Bulldogs. In 1999, he was traded to Edmonton and played four seasons there. The Oilers bought out his contract in 2003, he signed with Phoenix also in 2003 and when it was the year that never was, he and teammate Shawn Horcoff played in Sweden. Once the NHL was back on, Phoenix didn’t offer him a contract, he was invited to Red Wings training camp and he went, making the team right away.
2006-07 saw Cleary score a career-high 20 goals in 71 games, a goal-scoring feat he repeated the following season. This kind of performance led Detroit to re-sign him for five years in 2008. The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2008 and he became the first man from Newfoundland and Labrador to have his name on it. The next season, he was given a chance to face off against his old team in the conference final round of the playoffs, and while Detroit did vanquish Chicago, they couldn’t defeat Pittsburgh in a rematch of the previous final teams. He was also part of the 2009 Winter Classic held in and against Chicago–which Detroit won 6-4. Fun fact: Detroit has made the playoffs every year since Cleary was traded there (and many before that; they’ve seen playoff action since 1991). So, knowing this, he played 68 regular and 11 playoff games last season, with a 26 G 20 A 20 PIM record in regulars and a 2 G 4 A 6 PIM record in playoffs. Not bad! This season so far, he has played in 21 games to date with a 3 G 3 A 6 PIM record. Although he is a bit older, it’s clear that Cleary is still playing well and will continue to in future.