Abel to Yzerman
by IwoCPO on 10/05/10 at 04:12 AM ET
This could be it. After two years, at least, of predicting the end of Kirk Maltby’s career in Detroit, this could finally be farewell to #18. In the midst of a riveting story about fan favorite Mattias Ritola’s placement on waivers, Teddy Kulfan devoted all of one sentence to what seems to be a foregone conclusion.
As for the last forward spot Kirk Maltby is likely to be sent to Grand Rapids.
Yeah, he could be back. Baby Jeebus may decide to punish us once again for our well-earned arrogance and reign injuries down on this team like he did last year. And if he does, Maltby will be one of the first called up.
But as it stands now, he’s going down (over) to Grand Rapids, where he’ll make about 100K. He’ll be a Griff and a coach on the ice, essentially. He’ll be hustling and agitating and pissing off minor leaguers who would see him as a chance to make names for themselves. They’ll run him, yap at him, muscle up to him because they grew up watching their idols try to do the same thing.
And all those AHL’ers going up against Maltby probably have no recollection of this, one of the greatest moments in hundreds of amazing memories this current dynasty has provided us.
Kirk Maltby was typical of the Red Wings’ effort. He blocked three shots during a penalty kill in the second period, including two after losing his stick.
“You don’t want to lose your stick, especially when you’re shorthanded,” said Maltby, who received a standing ovation after dragging himself to the bench. “It was just a matter of trying to stay in the lane with the puck and block what I could.”
“Standing ovation” doesn’t do it justice. It was a frigging explosion. It was a roar that shook the arena to its foundations. It was the most knowledgable hockey crowd in the NHL showing their appreciation for a guy who gutted it out his entire career. It was a satisfied bellow from the pits of the Joe, a frigging laugh in the face of St. Louis because they were done. Pronger had impaled himself on The Captain’s hip, Shanahan bent them over and then Maltby slapped their faces with an open hand with a penalty kill that would be nearly equaled by Hank Zetterberg then Darren Helm six and seven years later.
He blocked a shot and got back up. Then he lost his stick and blocked another. He got back up and then he blocked another frigging shot because that’s what he’d been raised to do. It’s what he lived for and it’s what Grinders did for Scott Bowman, for Steve Yzerman and for one another.
But before that, five years earlier? There was this…
Oh hell yes. Nothing could compare to that series, you know. The sweep that followed was incredible, if unexpected. The next year for Vladdie was so very good. 2002 was a relief because that team was so stacked anything but a Cup would have been a soul-crusher. 2008 was redemption for the donkey punch Anaheim handed us (along with Gary’s refs) in 2007.
But my god that series against Denver in ‘97, that Western Conference Final. We were terrified because it was more pain just waiting to happen. San Jose, New Jersey, Denver…all the frigging nightmares of years past. We were hesitant to give ourselves to that ‘97 team because…well, because they’d stabbed us in the frigging temple year after year.
But they did it. They frigging did it and Maltby was a huge part of it. He got under their skin, drew penalties, killed penalties and he was a fixture on a line that was ours. Did you relate to Sergei Fedorov, or Shanahan? Really? No. But you sure as hell understood the kind of work it took to be a Kris Draper or a Kirk Maltby. That Grind Line was ours.
Oh, he was frigging despised. Rival fans hated him. The opposition seethed when he’d taunt, then skate backward, smiling, away…away…away. Waving as Foote and Pronger and Tkachuk stomped their way to the box. Big frigging dummies.
He frustrated us because there were the occasional glimpses of offense. And Mick didn’t help by constantly bringing it up, you know…“fifty goal scorer in juniors.” We know Mick. We know. But c’mon, every goal from Maltby was a cold beer you found at the back of the fridge when you thought for sure you were out.
His number won’t be hung. This isn’t Denver. He’ll go to GR and wait for the call. If it comes, he’ll do his job as always and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him brought up just for that veteran presence in April. But for all intents and purposes the Kirk Maltby era is done in Hockeytown. The Grind Line is one more departure away from being an awesome frigging memory. But what a memory it will be. What a line it was. What a revelation those bastards turned out to be, you know?
A standing ovation as he limped off the JLA ice. There’s the Maltby legacy right there. Thousands of ice packs, dozens of pissed off assholes in burgundy and candy-ass blue and four Stanley Cups to make it all worthwhile.
Imagery above courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977. No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y. Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation. There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature. Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org