Jason Dailey has seen it all.
Three years ago, he came into a program mired in mediocrity as the only freshman defenseman. Now, he is co-captain of the two-time defending ECAC champions.
How times have changed.
Along the way, the senior has become a key to the Red defensive unit. Dailey has a reputation as a player who can do damage on both ends of the ice, and has 10 goals and 20 assists in his career to prove it. Last season, Dailey scored five tallies and picked up 16 helpers, and got his share of post-season accolades, earning ECAC All-Tournament honors.
In short, offensively and defensively, Dailey is a threat.
He has also earned a reputation as the big man on the blue line, an enforcer of sorts. And though Dailey has seen it all, he realizes that the view isn’t as nice from the penalty box. That’s the place where he spent a team-high 61 minutes last season.
“I definitely want to tone down the penalty minutes,” Dailey said with a chuckle.
And even though the Pittsford, N.Y., native loves to smash the boards, he doesn’t really see himself as the team hitman.
“I love the one-on-one battle,” Dailey explained. “Ever since I was little, I’ve loved to mix it up. But I definitely don’t think of myself as a tough guy.”
The importance of Dailey’s role as a leader has escalated this year, as he is the only senior blueliner, with the graduation of Steve Wilson, Chad Wilson and Jason Kendall. Dailey hopes his influence on his teammates hasn’t been altered.
“I’d like to think it hasn’t changed. When I came in I was the only freshman. The group of older guys — the Wilsons, Kendall — they really taught me a lot,” the senior explained. “I’ve always kind of hoped that I would be that type of guy. I hope I can kind of give advice.”
Head coach Mike Schafer agreed.
“I don’t think the responsibilities from being a captain changes things at all. Jason was elected as a captain by being voted by our team to be a captain. You just keep doing the things you’ve always been doing,” Schafer said.
“Obviously, he now has an added role of being a liaison between the coaching staff and the players, and Jason will do a fine job with that,” Schafer added.
The defenseman has certainly earned the respect of his teammates.
“I think he’s a great captain — I look up to him — everybody has respect for him. He’s not a really vocal guy, but he leads by example,” junior defenseman Jeff Burgoyne said earlier this week.
As noted above, Dailey has seen the Red program transformed from mediocrity back to national prominence. Cornell was 11-15-4, and ninth in the ECAC, when he was a rookie — times were bad. But now, the icers’ recent success gives the senior a certain perspective that can be essential to keeping things stable.
“When I was a freshman, they struggled,” Dailey explained. “The program experienced a rough spot. Then [with the entrance of Schafer] the attitude changed.
“From a coaching standpoint, I’ve learned a lot of stuff since I’ve been here that I wish I had known before,” Dailey said. Now, as captain of the two-time defending ECAC champions, Dailey, along with junior co-captain Kyle Knopp, has the responsibility of leading the Red as they face the high expectations that goes along with winning.
“There’s pressure to a certain extent. People expect us to do well,” Dailey said. “We know what it takes to win.”
Whether coming up from the blue line to light the lamp or putting a hit on an opposing forward, Dailey’s leadership and ability will be key in maintaining the Big Red’s prowess. But above all, he has earned the admiration of his peers.
“He has so much respect on the team,” sophomore David Adler said. And that’s what gives Dailey the tools to keep the Red defense running smoothly.