Dan Cleary's comeback receives more validation at Canadian Olympic camp

August, 28, 2009
08/28/09
12:47
PM ET

CALGARY, Alberta -- Detroit Red Wings forward Dan Cleary was playing golf in late June when he noticed he had a voice mail.

It was from Red Wings vice president and Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman.

"Oh my god, I have to be honest: I was blown away," Cleary said Thursday as the Olympic camp wrapped up.

Considering that four years ago Cleary showed up to Wings camp on an NHL tryout in a bid to reignite his career, he certainly had reason to be blown away.

The hard work and dedication has paid off for the gritty, two-way Red Wings forward. His nine goals and 15 points in 23 playoffs games this past spring didn't go unnoticed. He's a long shot to make the 2010 Olympic team, but just his mere presence here this week speaks to his impressive journey.

"From where I've come from to here, it's something I'm proud of," said the 30-year-old Newfoundland native. "I feel like I worked hard for it and I deserve it. I don't want to take any steps back."

He has worked his way from fourth-line duty in 2005-06 to key forward last season. His winning goal in Game 7 of the second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks was one of his several highlights.

"I got an opportunity in Detroit and I've tried to make the best of it," said Cleary. "I try to stay even-keel and work even harder each year. My goal is to try and work harder than the best player on our team, Pavel Datsyuk. He works pretty darn hard."

Cleary is healthy now after playing the last three games of the Stanley Cup finals with a torn groin. Normally, that's an injury that would have knocked him out six weeks, but he insisted on playing through it.

Now, he enters the NHL season hoping to make more strides. He had back-to-back 20-goal seasons before dropping to 14 last season. It just so happens Team Canada coach Mike Babcock will have a front-row seat to Cleary's opening two months of the season, when he'll make his case for an Olympic spot.

"You know, I don't feel any pressure at all. Things will take care of itself," said Cleary. "You just have to play like you can and not try to overextend yourself. You're not trying to score 20 goals before Christmas. Just play your game, a good two-way game. I feel that's why I was here. You try not to change anything."

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