There are just three active NHL players from Newfoundland, and two are in this series: Ryane Clowe of the Sharks and Daniel Cleary of the Red Wings. (Michael Ryder of Montreal is the other.)
"Everyone keeps track of Newfoundlanders back home," Clowe said. "Now that we're actually playing against each other, it's probably pretty exciting. Everyone's a diehard for hockey back home, and it's nice for them knowing too that one of us is going to move on."
Newfoundland was an independent state from 1907 until 1949, when it joined Canada as a province. Just 21 Newfoundland natives have reached the NHL.
"I'm excited about it," Cleary said of facing a fellow Newfoundlander in the playoffs. "It's pretty neat. There's not too many of us that play in the NHL, period. We obviously root for each other, but I'd be happy for us to knock them out."
No native Newfoundlander has ever been on a Stanley Cup championship team. None has even reached the finals since Chicago defenseman Keith Brown in 1992.
That's why interest is probably higher than usual with Cleary on Detroit, the top seed in the Western Conference, and Clowe on the Sharks, one of the hottest teams down
In its preview for the second round of the playoffs, the St. John's Telegram newspaper wrote this of the San Jose-Detroit series:
" ... for Newfoundlanders, this will be the one to watch, what with the ability to check out Ryane Clowe of the Sharks and Daniel Cleary of the Wings, two players who excelled in the conference quarterfinals."
Clowe had three goals in five games against Nashville. Cleary had a goal and two assists in six games while also aggravating Calgary with a solid bump on goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
Clowe, 24, is four years younger than Cleary, and they haven't had the opportunity to meet except as opponents on the ice. But because of their common roots from the Rock, they have paid close attention to each other's career.
"I'm real proud of him," Cleary said. "He's done well for himself. He's big, and he's tough, but he's got good hands. You don't see too many of those guys come around. He's a great NHL player."
Cleary, who had a career-high 20 goals and 20 assists in 71 games this season, was an inspiration for Clowe. The Chicago Blackhawks chose Cleary in the first round in 1997 at 13th overall.
"He got drafted high, so you took notice," Clowe said. "When you're a younger guy, it's nice to see him kind of opening up the gate a little bit for us. Now it's different. There's a lot more guys, not in the NHL, but playing in the minors and major junior. There weren't a lot of guys playing major junior even a few years ago."
Cleary and Clowe both left Newfoundland to play major junior. Cleary went to Belleville in the Ontario Hockey League where he was briefly teammates with Sharks right wing Jonathan Cheechoo. Clowe headed to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, first in Rimouski and then Montreal.
The Sharks drafted Clowe in the sixth round in 2001. He made the team out of training camp last season but didn't score a goal in 18 appearances. This season Clowe broke through with 16 goals and 18 assists in 58 games.
Clowe recorded his first hat trick in January against Columbus.
Just nine days earlier, Cleary had bagged his first hat trick also against Columbus. Clowe is hoping to beat Cleary to the Cup, though.
NOTES: Sharks coach Ron Wilson expects Detroit to dial up its physical intensity today in Game 2, so he plans to insert left wing Mark Bell into the lineup. Bell skated on a line with center Patrick Marleau and right wing Bill Guerin at practice Friday, taking the place of rookie Joe Pavelski. ... Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom (eye) and defenseman Brett Lebda (ankle) are expected to miss today's game. Both were scratched Thursday in Game 1.