Don McLean was born January 19, 1954 in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The second round, 35th overall selection of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1974 NHL Entry Draft and the seventh round, 101st overall selection of the New England Whalers in the 1974 WHA Amateur Draft, McLean is a graduate of the OHA.
Prior to the OMJHL's Niagara Falls Flyers in 1970-71, McLean played parts of two seasons with the OHA-B Niagara Falls Canucks and the OHA-Jr Niagara Falls Flyers. A stay-at-home defenceman, McLean played two seasons in the OMJHL with Niagara Falls before joining the Sudbury Wolves in the fall of 1972. In his second season with Sudbury in 1973-74, McLean set a career high for points with 23 (6-17-23) in 57 games before making professional debut with the AHL's Richmond Robins the following year.
In the summer of 1975, Philadelphia dealt McLean to the Washington Capitals and during 1975-76 season, he would split his time with Richmond and the CHL's Salt Lake Golden Eagles, while impressing the Washington brass enough to earn nine games with the club throughout the season. After only one season with the Caps organization, McLean joined the NAHL's Johnstown Jets in 1976-77 before calling it a career later that spring.