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Local hockey hero Dan Cleary brings Stanley Cup home to N.L.

HARBOUR GRACE, N.L. - This small community in Newfoundland and Labrador will be draped in red and white on Canada Day in recognition of the country's birthday, but also for hometown hockey hero Dan Cleary.


HARBOUR GRACE, N.L. - This small community in Newfoundland and Labrador will be draped in red and white on Canada Day in recognition of the country's birthday, but also for hometown hockey hero Dan Cleary.

The powerful Red Wings forward, who learned the game skating in local arenas, is bringing hockey's biggest prize home as the first Newfoundland-born player to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

"To win the Stanley Cup is a life-long dream that has now been fulfilled thanks in part to the overwhelming support I have received from my family, friends and the people of this province," Cleary said in a news release.

"I am so proud of this accomplishment and grateful to all those who taught me along the way."

Older brother Neil was in Pittsburgh on the night the Red Wings - whose team colours are red and white - won the Cup earlier this month.

He says he couldn't be prouder of his younger sibling.

"His dream, his career as a professional hockey player, he's reached a real high, the pinnacle," he said.

"Dan's achieved what others in his profession dream of doing. Not everyone gets to do it. On a professional and personal level, everyone is ecstatic for him."

One of the first people Cleary called after Detroit's championship series win was 72-year-old Dick Power, his first hockey coach.

"This is the one time in your life that you're happy for Danny for all that he's after going through, the ups and the downs, " said Power, who first saw Cleary skate as a six-year-old and mentored him until he left for Kingston, Ont., at the age of 14.

"He could see the ice and read the ice and the determination was there to work hard."

From an early age, Power said you could see that Cleary had talent.

"He could see his players and feed them the puck. You could see the potential. But he didn't like to skate," Power said with a laugh, recalling how Cleary had to sometimes be pushed in speed drills.

Power is looking forward to a visit from Cleary and the hallowed trophy when they arrive in town for celebrations that officials say could draw up to 30,000 people.

Lord Stanley's silverware has been in the province before while on national tour and was even in Labrador earlier this year for a junior tournament.

But Harbour Grace Mayor Don Coombs said this time it's going to be the centrepiece of one big hockey party.

"It's crazy. Cup crazy and Canada Day in Harbour Grace. The place has gone mad. The playoffs were quite the run in themselves but this is unreal," said Coombs of the red and white banners, posters and Christmas lights draped over homes and businesses.

During the finals, people in Harbour Grace flocked to the local hockey rink to cheer on their hometown hero.

Now that the Cup is coming to town, Coombs said some Newfoundlanders working in Alberta are even scheduling their vacations around the trophy's visit.

"Friends and work mates who haven't seen each other in 30 years are calling to see if they can stay in local homes," he said.

Cleary, who is already in the province, will meet the cup Monday as it arrives in St. John's and take it to the Janeway Children's hospital in the city before heading home, about an hour's drive away.

Monday night will be spent with extended family and close friends.

The Stanley Cup's schedule in Harbour Grace on Canada Day will involve a motorcade, meetings with minor hockey players and an event expected to attract thousands at a local soccer pitch.

"He's only got the Cup for 48 hours and he wants to share it with everybody," said Coombs.

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