Gleason: A nod to the old school

It's hard to keep the tough Hurricanes defenseman off of the ice

Staff writerDecember 16, 2009 

— Everyone agrees Tim Gleason is a throwback.

Carolina Hurricanes assistant coach Tome Rowe calls the defenseman "old school." Veteran winger Scott Walker prefers "old-time hockey" in talking about him.

Gleason is the kind of player who would have fit in well with the NHL warhorses of the '60s and '70s, when many feared for their jobs and few injuries short of decapitation could keep a man out the lineup.

Gleason often has played with injuries, large and small. It comes with the rough-and-tumble position. But taking a puck in the face Friday against the Washington Capitals, on a slapshot by the Caps' Alexander Ovechkin, and returning to the game was something else.

The gash to the right of his nose took 30 stitches to close and was ghastly to see, even by hockey standards.

"That was ugly," forward Ray Whitney said. "You could just feel that hurt."

Or as center Brandon Sutter put it, "It was pretty gross to see."

But Gleason wanted back in. He went to the locker room at the Verizon Center to be stitched up. He was fitted with a full-face shield. Then, he demanded to be put back in the game.

"We had a long chat about whether he can go back in the lineup," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "The doctors said it's really up to the player at that point, and he was absolutely adamant about going back and playing."

There really wasn't any question about it, of course.

"Unless it's a severed aorta ...," a smiling Maurice said, adding, "... and then he just wants to play five-on-five."

Or four-on-five.

Gleason didn't just return to the game. He came back with a vengeance, needing a shift or two to get accustomed to the new headgear and fighting through some pain.

In the third period, with the Hurricanes trailing 3-2, Gleason was on the Canes' penalty kill team. He made a quick move to pick off a sloppy Mike Green pass and suddenly was off on a breakaway.

Gleason didn't try to fool Caps goalie Jose Theodore with any stickhandling deke or crafty moves. He wound up and fired a blistering, rising shot past Theodore for a short-handed goal to tie the score.

"He wanted it. He had some bite on that one," Sutter said with a grin.

The Hurricanes did not win the game, losing 4-3 in overtime. But Gleason may have won an even deeper degree of respect from his teammates, his coaches - and from those on the other bench, as well. Washington coach Bruce Boudreau praised Gleason after the game.

"Gleason's a tough character," Boudreau said.

Gleason has served as an alternate captain for the Hurricanes at times. He also has served as the team's player representative to the NHL Players Association, often a thankless task.

But there was something about this particular injury and this gash, about Gleason's willingness to play, and in a season when the Hurricanes have been struggling and at the bottom of the NHL, that says even more about the 26-year-old from Clawson, Mich.

"That's as tough as you're going to get," Whitney said.

"All I can say is it's old-time hockey," Walker added. "that's the greatest respect you can give a guy. In the old days they took whatever they had to take to keep going.

"If that can't get you fired up to play hockey or keep you going, nothing will."

As Whitney and others said, the Canes have a poor record. It would have been easy for Gleason to call it a night, maybe skip the game the next night in Ottawa.

"Nobody would have said a word to this man if he had taken himself out of the lineup and said he couldn't go," Maurice said. "But the fact he came back and played the way he did, and played the next night and wasn't feeling much better, says a lot about him and how he feels about his teammates.

"That's leadership."

Gleason was invited to the U.S. Olympic orientation camp in Chicago during the summer. There have been questions as to if he will be selected for Team USA for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, and some consider him a long shot.

And now?

"If you are looking to fill a character spot, I don't think there are many better," Maurice said.

Or looking for a throwback.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service