After being drafted 22nd overall to the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2015, Caiden Daley, a forward for the McGill men’s hockey team, was forced to choose between starting a professional career in the Western Hockey League (WHL) or playing NCAA DI hockey at the University of North Dakota. His decision to stay close to his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba and play with the Wheat Kings kicked off an impressive five-year career in the WHL.
From the get-go, Daley played a key role right on the Wheat Kings, starting in 60 of 72 games in only his second season. Prior to his final season in the WHL, Daley was traded to the Regina Pats in 2019, then the Saskatoon Blades in 2020, where he rounded out his WHL career. With the Blades, Daley took part in the 2021 shortened season WHL bubble, where he was a centrepiece in the team’s third-place finish in the Eastern Division. Not only was he an assistant captain, but Daley was indispensable as the team’s designated “snack guy.”
As the bubble came to an end last spring, Daley decided that he was ready to move on from playing out West.
“I wanted to try something new and experience a new culture,” Daley said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “That was what drove me to make the decision [to come to McGill], to try a new thing and get out of my comfort zone. [McGill] gave me a lot of time to just decide what I really wanted to do and sit back and focus on myself [….] It’s been awesome, and the city is amazing.”
In his first eight games with the Redbirds, Daley, a U0 Arts student, has already begun to establish himself as a powerful forward, working to model his game after Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Growing up as a multi-sport athlete, Daley’s success in hockey eventually overruled his passion for basketball and football. But in choosing hockey, a predominantly white sport, Daley often found himself to be the only person of colour in the rink.
“My parents did a really good job of teaching me,” Daley said. “There’s not a lot of Black athletes in hockey but I just didn’t really focus on that at all. I just wanted to go out there, have fun and enjoy myself. And that’s just kind of what I did in every aspect of the game, off the ice and on the ice.”
Daley added that in the context of team dynamics, his role has transformed from mentee to mentor as he has gotten older.
“I’ve tried to be a good role model for people in my community and young Black athletes in hockey,” Daley said. “That’s just something that I’ve always strived for.”
Following the last two years and the “racial awakening” that has consumed the sports world, Daley presented himself to his coaches and teammates as a person they could talk to.
“I told my coaches, if you guys want to talk about that stuff, ask me questions,” Daley said. “I think people sometimes are scared and end up tiptoeing around talking about [race]. To talk about what’s acceptable, what’s right, and what’s wrong is only going to help the world and the sport get better.”
If Daley’s not at the rink, you can find him on the links golfing with his dad, or in the kitchen pursuing his journey to be the next Chopped star. As a U0 student, Daley has an abundance of open doors at his disposal. What’s for certain, however, is that his love for hockey will surely be a part of his life for the foreseeable future.