Dallas – One of the trickiest parts of the morning was finally deemed a success.
Trevor Daley, a longtime Dallas Stars defenseman who never had reason to find the visitors locker room, found his way into the Red Wings’ – or, visitors – locker room.
He didn’t get lost.
“I walked in here and I had no clues where to go this morning,” said Daley after Tuesday’s morning skate. “Guys were saying “You’ve never been here?” I had no clue where to go.”
Daley, 34, was a 2002 second-round draft pick of the Stars and spent 11 seasons in Dallas (2003-2015) before being traded to Chicago.
And, this is where Daley has had no luck in terms of returning to Dallas.
Or attempting to find where the visitors locker room is at American Airlines Center.
The Blackhawks had already played in Dallas by the time Daley had been shipped to Chicago, and once Daley was sent to Pittsburgh by the Blackhawks, Daley was injured.
So this was Daley’s first time back in Dallas, where there had been so many good memories.
Red Wings defenseman talks about returning to Dallas to face his former team on Tuesday night. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
“It’s pretty strange coming back,” Daley said. “A little bit of emotions but it’ll be exciting to get out there and play.”
There were more than a few people, guests of Daley, who were at the morning skate. There were several photo opportunities, a lot of smiles, and genuine positive emotions.
Daley spotted J.J. McQueen, who has been in the Stars’ front office for 22 years, in the arena before heading onto the ice.
“He’s a person I’ve always looked up to and been with me every since I got drafted,” Daley said. “I got to see him this morning, and that was pretty cool. We stay in contact a lot. But just to see everybody and the faces, that’s the best part.
“That’s what it is all about.”
It’s actually the people in and around the organization, and the people in Dallas, that made the time so special for Daley.
“I had some good years, met a lot of great people,” Daley said. “No matter where you go or where you end up, when you return and see those faces, it’s special. Sometimes things just don’t change.
“It’s pretty cool.”
Daley was a popular player in the Stars organization and the team was going to honor him with a video tribute during a first-period timeout.
After missing out on the opportunity for such an emotional return the previous two years, Daley was pleased to finally get the chance.
“Finally,” said Daley of the video tribute, with a large smile. “It’s good to get back. Ever since I left I’ve been waiting to come back and get a chance to play here. I didn’t think it was going to take two years.
“Obviously it’ll be pretty cool. This building, usually when the Red Wings come to town, I remember being on the other side and it’s usually a loud building and there’s usually a lot of Red Wings fans.
“I might have a lot of fans tonight, so it’ll be good.”
When the Red Wings signed Daley as an unrestricted free agent July 1, they were hoping he’d be a puck-moving, stabilizing influence on defense and he’s been exactly that through two games.
Daley was averaging a team-high 23 minutes, 7 seconds in the two games, and forming the basis for a formidable duo with Danny DeKeyser.
From the first day Daley became a Red Wing, Blashill felt it was a big move for the organization, enabling a better fit in terms of roles for everyone on defense.
“When you add a piece like that, it lessens the responsibility on the other D (defensemen), especially when you don’t have a quote unquote number one (defenseman) who plays 28 or 30 minutes,” Blashill said. “He’s real active with his feet to defend, gapping up, and he’s real active up on the rush.”
Daley’s strengths as a passer and skater were an important add to the Red Wings, who didn’t have have that sort of mobility, and also needed the veteran, championship-pedigree moxie he had from winning two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh the last two seasons.
“He plays the way we want to play,” Blashill said.