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Backchecking: David Maley had coast-to-coast 'miraculous' career

The Hockey News

The Hockey News


David Maley believes in miracles.

In Colorado attending Bob Johnson’s hockey school in 1979, the then 16-year-old Maley witnessed the Miracle on Ice team tryouts. After the roster was finalized, Maley remembers meeting two members of the U.S. Olympic squad.

“We were at Bob Johnson’s camp and Bob Suter and Mark Johnson showed up in their brand new Team USA sweats,” recalled Maley. “They came out and showed us some things and Bob was very proud of Mark. Mark did these stickhandling drills that I practiced every day, all summer.”

Johnson and Suter would play prominent roles for the U.S. team that upset the Soviets on Feb. 22, 1980 and proceeded to win the gold medal. Thirty years later, Maley, now president of the Silver Creek Sportsplex in San Jose and a decade removed from his pro career, vividly remembers listening to the game on the radio.

Inspired by the underdog Americans, the rugged Wisconsin native would eventually suit up alongside players from both sides of that unforgettable contest.

“I played with (Alexei) Kasatonov, (Slava) Fetisov and (Sergei) Makarov from the Russian team and I played with Mark Johnson and Jack O’Callahan from the U.S. team in New Jersey,” he said.

It might be considered a minor miracle Maley played in the NHL at all. Born in Beaver Dam, Wis., he didn’t start playing hockey until he was 10 and even then he only skated once a week. Things would change, however, in Grade 8, when his family moved to Edina, Minn., where indoor and outdoor rinks were within walking distance of his house.

In Minnesota, his family purchased North Stars season tickets, a perk that allowed him the opportunity to admire the skills of Bobby Smith, Dino Ciccarelli and Steve Payne. Working diligently to improve his own game, Maley made the junior varsity team as a freshman at Edina High School and later led the school to a state championship.

Having spent much of his youth in Wisconsin, Maley jumped at a scholarship offer from the University of Wisconsin to play for the Badgers. During his four years at the college, Maley toiled alongside future NHLers Chris Chelios, Bruce Driver, Scott Mellanby, Mike Richter and Pat Flatley. Skating on a line with Flatley, Maley, who was picked by the Canadiens in the second round of the 1982 draft, helped the Badgers secure an NCAA championship in 1983.

Maley made his NHL debut with the Habs on March 29, 1986 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, his first of three regular season games that season. Maley dressed for seven playoff contests that season, mainly because of injuries, and earned a championship ring for his efforts.

“When I first got that ring, I think I wore it every day for a couple of weeks,” he said.

He played 48 games with the Canadiens the following season and reflects fondly on the time he spent with legends like Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey. He remembers Robinson inviting him over on Christmas Eve and playing pool with the legend’s son.

“Too bad there weren’t cellphones back then because once I got back home, I called all my buddies and told them I was just over at Larry Robinson’s,” he said.

In June 1987, Maley was dealt to the New Jersey Devils, where he would add toughness to an up-and-coming squad. The Devils earned their first playoff berth in dramatic fashion when John MacLean scored an overtime-winner in the final game of the season. The Cinderella Devils would come within one win of advancing to the Stanley Cup final.

Maley’s gritty, all-out style quickly made him a fan favorite in New Jersey. He was named the team’s unsung hero in 1988-89 and recorded a career high 25 points the following campaign.

After more than four seasons in New Jersey, he was dealt to the Oilers in January of 1992 and would go on to finish his NHL career with stints in San Jose and Long Island from 1993-94.

The NHL tough guy fell in love with San Jose during his 62 games over two seasons and decided he wanted to retire in the area. He had connections in the roller blade business and felt there was an opportunity to open a rink in the city.

“When I stopped playing, I wanted to open an inline hockey facility,” he said. “Here the Sharks were fairly new, but kids were starting to play on the streets and there was only one rink at the time. The boards were just man-made. It was kind of a run-down place and I figured if I could put regular, nice NHL-style boards in a facility, it would be nicer and people would come.”

His plan worked. He leased a building at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds and opened Rollin’ Ice in 1996. After a successful 10-year run at the facility, his lease expired and he began hunting for a new location. With encouragement from business associates, Maley decided to transform a large vacant structure in the south part of the city into a multi-purpose facility, where his vision evolved into the Silver Creek Sportsplex.

“We’re doing really well,” Maley said. “We have indoor soccer, indoor roller hockey, indoor lacrosse, martial arts and dance for kids. We also have a full service gym that’s called Club One and indoor pools. It’s just a phenomenal place.”

Despite his busy day job, Maley is rarely far from the HP Pavilion. He does radio work for the Sharks and is the president of the club’s alumni association. Fortunately, his wife, Karin, and three children are also hockey fans.

“Our family watching hockey games is scary,” he said. “I think we yell at the TV more than most families.”

And there’s sure to be a lot of yelling at the Maley house as they cheer on the young U.S. team to a “miracle” of their own in the Olympics this February.

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