Gleason: ‘I knew I needed a change’

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 9, 2014 

Tim Gleason said it was a surreal feeling, coming into PNC Arena on Thursday morning.

Turning left, not right, to go to the locker room. Putting on a different uniform. Going on the ice for the visitors' morning skate with the Toronto Maple Leafs, not at 10:30 a.m. with the Carolina Hurricanes.

"You'e excited for the day but you almost want the day to come and go," he said. "But it's a game and you've got to play it and do my job."

Gleason was traded Jan. 1 to the Leafs, and the defenseman -- who had to approve the deal -- calls it a "new start" in his career.

"I think I needed a new start," he said. "Did I want to be traded? No. But that's the business and hockey wise, I knew it was time to move on and do my thing somewhere else. I'm excited to be part of this club."

It's been quite a season for Gleason. He suffered a concussion in preseason and missed the first 10 games, going through various medical tests. He returned to the lineup, only to be injured again. He was in and out of the lineup, playing a total of 17 games. Then, the trade.

"It has been kind of a crazy year and I'm just trying to get my game back," Gleason said. "Mentally just kind of move on, start over and start fresh and feel good about it.

"Sometimes, the confidence level can kind of shoot you down. But I'm trying to put (the trade) in the back of my mind. I'll think about it 10 years from now and laugh about it. I knew I needed a change."

Gleason was traded for defenseman John-Michael Liles and played his first game for the Leafs on Tuesday against the New York Islanders. He had almost 16 minutes of ice time but was minus-2 as the Leafs were beaten 5-3.

Gleason said in facing the Canes on Thursday, "You obviously know their system." Asked if he provided the scouting report for the Leafs, he laughed and didn't bite on the question.

"I know a lot of guys over there and two of the guys who I was with the longest, they don't want to play against me tonight," he joked.

That would be the Canes' Eric Staal and Cam Ward, both out with injuries. Gleason said he was able to visit with them Wednesday night.

Gleason's family is still in Raleigh and he said he stayed at the house Wednesday night. He said he was driving to the arena on Thursday and noticed the car in front of him was being driven by Canes general manager Jim Rutherford.

"My ex-boss. Small world, I guess," Gleason said, smiling.

Gleason's ex-coach, Kirk Muller, said it will be weird seeing Gleason in a Leafs uniform, wearing No. 8, after wearing No. 6 -- and an "A" on his uniform -- for the Canes.

"He was here long before I was," Muller said. "He's a classy guy and has done a lot for this organization, on and off the ice, charity wise and different stuff.

"When you give an 'A' to a guy it obviously means he's a leader type player, and he brought that. Seeing him in a different color will be different, but I think sometimes trades are made for the benefit of both teams and different personnel. I think for 'Gleas,' the way Toronto plays is more suited for his style."

When the Canes last played the Leafs, Dec. 29 in Toronto, Gleason was in the Carolina lineup and had his father along for the team’s annual "fathers trip." A few days later, he was in the Leafs' dressing room at Air Canada Centre surrounded by media.

The Toronto media corps is a big one and Gleason again drew a lot of attention Thursday after the pre game skate -- this time in the visitors' room.

"Yeah, this is different," Gleason said. "Like I said it's a new start for me."

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