A lot of kids were crowded around, hoping he would autograph the program that said "United States Olympic Team," or asking him for his stick, or perhaps just wanting to look at him and watch him talk.
Then the man in the trench coat and horn-rimmed glasses, with a prize-fighter's nose, came through the crowd and shook his hand. "You were terrific out there," he said. "I'm very pleased with you, Billy." Bill Cleary, who set an NCAA scoring record last year with 89 points, wearing now an Olympic jersey instead of a Crimson one, replied simply: "Thank you, Mr. Weiland."
Cleary had just scored seven points in Sunday's exhibition game, composed of a period each against Boston College, Northeastern, and Harvard. It may have been his last performance in Boston, for some time at least, and those who had seen him play so often before remembered the Cleary brand of play.
He may be a little rougher and faster now, but the same poise and strength and balance were undeniably there. Two of his scoring plays were typical. Late in the first period against B.C., he picked the puck up near the boards just inside the Eagle blueline, bulled and faked his way around two defensemen, and then cut sharply in front of the cage. He had a good opportunity to shoot, but, typically, he passed to Wimpy Burtnett, who, standing near the post, had a better opportunity and scored.
Cleary's Play Reminiscent
The play reminded spectators of the way Cleary used to play two-on-one breakaways. In the Yale game here two years ago, for instance, he raced down the ice with Norm Wood on his wing, faded over to the side purposely, drawing the defenseman and goalie with him, and then passed to Wood, completely alone in front of the cage.
His first goal Sunday, against Northeastern, was a Cleary specialty. Taking a pass on the wing, he went in alone on goalie Bill Lawn and faked him out of the cage as beautifully as he ever faked B.C.'s Chick D'Entremont in suddendeath overtime of the Bean Pot final, or Yale's George Scherer in the first period of last year's 9-1 rout.
Cleary scored seven points but none of them were against his old teammates. The varsity upheld Eastern hockey honor against the predominantly Minnesotabred Olympians by keeping them to one goal, whereas B.C. had allowed them eight, and Northeastern nine.
"Harvard will go places," Cleary said, "if it keeps on playing hockey like that." And then he added to Coach Cooney Weiland, "that Celi is a great defenseman." Put together and added to Weiland's observation that the varsity had played fine position hockey, it meant that the second half of the season could be, might be, good. Meanwhile, Bill Cleary would be facing off in Italy.