Kukla's Korner

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Red Wings overnight report: Kris Draper’s retirement marks a sea change

The stars in Grand Marais are so ridiculously brilliant and bright tonight that you could take out a nature photographer who’s been to equatorial Africa and gloat, and the company’s not half bad, either, but I’m sitting here in the “activity room” at the resort I’m staying, having excused myself from the a campfire at 2 AM to work because I’m trying to find words to explain the magnitude of substantive change the Detroit Red Wings’ locker room and bench have sustained via the exits of Chris Osgood and Kris Draper over the past eight days…

And in the very specific case of Kris Draper’s retirement on Tuesday, I don’t know if it’s possible. The days of the Grind Line are over, we are in the final years of Nicklas Lidstrom’s career and only #5 and the perhaps equally-indescribable-for-very-different-reasons Tomas Holmstrom stand as the last playing remnants of the Red Wings’ 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup championships.

Okay, that doesn’t cut it, either. How about this:

As much as Steve Yzerman is a legend in Detroit for his offensive wizardry and willpower, and Nicklas Lidstrom remains the best defenseman to ever wear red and white, Kris Draper was the best grinder the team has employed during the modern era. Moreover, in terms of leadership, enthusiasm, a blue-collar work ethic and irrepressible pride about being a Red Wing, it is entirely possible that there has never been and never will be another Wing who made more of a career with less skill, skating excluded, than any player other than Draper, the consummate defensive specialist and de-facto on-ice coach who gave every fiber of his being to become one of the rare breed of players who can boast having a Red Wing very literally tattooed onto their heart.

As duly noted by so many scribes on Tuesday, and as the Windsor Star’s Jim Parker notes, the list of attendees at Draper’s retirement presser was befitting of the 5’10” forward’s stature among his peers:

Kris Draper was perched at the front of the room to announce his retirement after 17 seasons with the Red Wings while former teammates Darren McCarty, Kirk Maltby, Larry Murphy and Brian Rafalski looked on.

“This is the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make because I love the game of hockey and I love being a Red Wing,” Draper said in making his retirement official. “I consider myself one of the luckiest athletes of all time to be able to play with this organization for 17 years. To be able to play over 1,000 games with the Red Wings is probably what I’m most proud of. It’s been great.”

His days with the organization are far from over. Draper will remain part of the club’s front office staff in a yet-to-be-determined position.

“In one way, it’s a sad day,” Red Wings GM Ken Holland said. “In another, it’s exciting. All the intangibles he stands for, he’ll bring to the front office.”

While Draper attempted to put a brave face on the situation…

“I’m glad I walked away from the game and it didn’t pass me by,” Draper said. “I didn’t hang on too long.”

And one of his Grind Line linemates suggested the obvious…

“He’s smart enough and he’ll still be the first one working out every day,” McCarty said. “I’m sure he’ll have a chance to win another Cup on that side.”

(You can add Chris Chelios riding his exercise bike in the sauna and Ted Lindsay showing up once or twice a week to boot…)

Draper spoke of both beginning a new career as a member of “that side” after speaking to Steve Yzerman about the transition to management…

“When Steve left the game, he worked with the organization, he brought the passion that he brought every day to the rink as a player,” Draper said. “He did that at the next level and now look at him with Tampa Bay. Now, I have challenges and there’s goals. I like being a goal-oriented person and I’m going to set goals for myself.”

And he talked about the beginning of his Red Wings career, too, explaining to Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner that escaping from Moncton, New Brunsiwck and the Winnipeg Jets’ farm team there yielded the now-famous $1 trade to Detroit and an opportunity Draper refused to let pass him by:

“I was 21 years old. I wanted to be an NHL hockey player, but the Winnipeg Jets didn’t seem to think that I could. I ended up talking to my agent and asked him, ‘What do I do?’”

Draper’s conversation with his agent started the ball rolling, and during the middle of the summer, he received a call telling him he had been traded to Detroit for future considerations, which spawned the classic Draper line, “How am I possibly going to make the Detroit Red Wings if I couldn’t make the Winnipeg Jets?”

In the beginning he didn’t make the Red Wings either, but he was told to be ready. Draper was sent to Adirondack, where he was used in every situation imaginable. It was also where he made a life-long bond with several players who would all make their way into a Detroit uniform. After years of never finding the right fit, Draper was part of a team. His sense of belonging coupled with the Detroit philosophy that you earned your ice-time through hard work described him to a tee.

It all paid off for Draper when he was called up to the Wings in January 1994 and never left. But before he could play in Detroit, the Wings needed to complete their deal with Winnipeg.

“That’s how the whole dollar thing happened,” Draper said. “Bryan Murray called Winnipeg and said, ‘We’ve called up Kris Draper and this was a future-considerations deal, so we have to finalize it. How do you want to do it?’ Winnipeg just wanted to make it a financial transaction and told the Red Wings to just give them a dollar and I could play. That was the start of it for me. It didn’t bother me that I was only worth a dollar to the Jets because of where I was. I didn’t care how I was going to get to Detroit; all I wanted to do was get there.”

Once he became a Red Wing, Detroit’s top three centers were Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov and Keith Primeau. So Draper decided to do three things: He accepted any role that was given to him. He never answered his phone. And he never made eye contact with Bryan Murray, Scotty Bowman or Ken Holland.

“I was so nervous every time the phone rang (thinking it was the call that would send him back to Adirondack), I would just never answer it. I was trying to do everything low key and just go on the ice and play hard. I did everything I could to keep myself in Detroit.”

And then came the Grind Line era, first with Draper and Maltby playing alongside an out-of-the-beer-leagues Joey Kocur, and then Darren McCarty, who suggested the following to the Free Press’s Helene St. James:

“They can put up a statue now—it’s the end of an era,” Darren McCarty said, succinctly summing up one of the highlights of Kris Draper’s career Tuesday, the day Draper officially retired after 17 seasons with the Red Wings.

Draper accomplished a great deal after coming to Detroit in the summer of ‘93: He won four Stanley Cups, captured the 2004 Selke as the NHL’s top defensive forward, topped 1,000 games in a Wings uniform. His face, though—after being rearranged by Claude Lemieux during the 1996 Western Conference finals against Colorado—became widely recognized starting in ‘97, when Draper was put on a line with Kirk Maltby and Joe Kocur. The group, which soon saw McCarty taking over for Kocur, gained fame as the Grind Line, demonstrating tenacity in the defensive zone and talent in the offensive zone.
“Everyone brought a little something different to the table,” Maltby said. “As a line, we always had each other’s backs. Kris and I got into some predicaments at times, and Joey or Mac were always there. We loved playing with each other. We were very fortunate—just look at us, I’d gotten traded here the year before, Drapes got traded here for a dollar, Joey came out of the beer league. Mac got drafted and played one year in the minors. We all came our different ways, but somehow when we laced them up, we jelled.”

The four remain great friends with great senses of humor. Asked if he’d sought out Maltby for advice on retiring, Draper shot back, “You don’t lean on Malts, come on,” and laughed. Kocur prodded someone to ask during Draper’s news conference how soon he’d be suiting up for the alumni team.

“The camaraderie and the chemistry was there all the time,” McCarty said. “The Grind Line wasn’t just at the rink, it was away from the rink.”

The moniker fell into place, Draper recalled, during the ‘97 series against St. Louis, when the linemates and former trainer John Wharton were throwing out suggestions. “All of a sudden ‘The Grind Line’ came up, and Joey Kocur jumped up and said, ‘That’s it.’ There was something special with that group, with the personalities, with the characters. I think more so for Malts and I, we knew that we were protected. We could go and we could play on that edge, knowing how great those guys were.”

They played on the edge because, as Draper told both St. James and DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose, someone very, very special had their backs:

“Scotty Bowman trusted us with a lot of different situations,” said Draper, who is among five players to play in more than 1,000 games for the Wings. “If you have the confidence in your coach that you can go out and play in these situations, you want to go out there and do it, and you want to do it well. I think that’s why that line was so special. I’ve seen highlights – Mac going hat trick in the conference finals against the Colorado Avalanche and the goals that Malts scored, and he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated; we broke the jinx. Things like that. We were able to do so much, and to be so successful, but Scotty thought that we could play in any situation, and that’s why we were able to do so well.”
“On a personal level, Kris is a great friend. We roomed together quite a bit, and obviously played together a lot,” Maltby said. “We stuck up for each other and were in some tense situations – both good and bad – but at the end of the day we both had each other’s back. He’s a great person and had a great career.”
“He was intense. As bad as you wanted to work for yourself, you had to work for him, because he would let you know it,” Kocur said. “If you made a mistake, he was going to tell you, which made us all better. He made you accountable.”

Whether it was the heated rivalry born out of a brutal incident one May evening in Denver, or an overtime goal that helped the team secured a second straight Cup championship, Kris Draper and the Grind Line will forever live in the hearts and minds of a generation of Detroit hockey fans.

“The Grind Line is over,” Draper said. “Basically, the last one retired, but we were able to put out so many good memories. We did it right and I enjoyed playing with them, for sure.”

Over, but not forgotten, because, as the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg notes, Draper himself didn’t forget anyone:

Draper had attended retirement news conferences for several teammates in this very room at Joe Louis Arena, but he said he never took mental notes for what he would say when his day came. This is just who he is. He worked on the speech for a few days. (“It kept getting longer and longer,” his wife Julie said. “He kept printing out revisions.”) His 11-year-old daughter Kennedi proudly reported that she caught a spelling error and found a missing word.

Then Draper spoke. And he thanked 109 individuals, including 22 teammates, eight doctors, two dentists, three Lions, two Tigers, all his Red Wings coaches, several minor league coaches, at least two parking-lot attendants; assorted trainers, equipment managers (“I always had sticks, gloves and skates waiting for me”); friends and family members.

Understand: These are just the people he thanked by name. He also thanked “every player that I have ever worn the Red Wing jersey with”; the media (“every single one of you treated me fairly”); everybody who worked at Joe Louis Arena (“each and every single gray coat”); the “entire” public-relations staff; the “entire” marketing staff; Hockey Canada; and of course, Red Wings fans.

“Hockeytown fans are the greatest fans,” he said.

You want to know why Draper is so popular around here? That is why. Draper was never really a great player, just a very good one. But he was a great Red Wing, and that seemed to mean even more to him. He saw teammates leave for a fresh start (Sergei Fedorov); more money (Martin Lapointe); and because they had no choice (Chris Osgood). But Draper wanted, above all, to stay. It meant everything to him. He stuck around long enough to get his name on the Stanley Cup four times. But how do you quantify the thank-yous, the you’re-welcomes or the patient answers to tough questions after playoff losses? How about the hospital visits or the chats with fans in coffee shops and restaurants?

Or the chat he had with Chris Osgood while the two took part in a golf trip to Ireland and Scotland about three weeks ago, as he told the Detroit News’s John Niyo...

By the time they were done, Osgood had won 401 games — 10th on the NHL’s career list — and Draper had won a Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward while playing in 1,137 games for Detroit, fifth in franchise history behind Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Alex Delvecchio and Lidstrom.

“It’s amazing how fast it goes,” said Draper, who turned 40 in May. “Ozzie and I talked about it over there in Dublin (during a celebratory birthday golf outing) — rightfully so, at a pub. All those guys, they knew the direction we were heading. It got pretty emotional. But it was special. These guys came right from the heart — it was overwhelming, what I heard some of my teammates say — and that’s one of the moments that I’ll never forget.”

There are countless others, of course. From the infamous Claude Lemieux hit in the playoffs that smashed Draper’s face and steeled his team’s resolve to the heydays of the “Grind Line” — when he earned Scotty Bowman’s trust and played a starring role with Maltby, Joe Kocur and Darren McCarty against the Flyers in the ‘97 finals — to eating Froot Loops out of the Stanley Cup with his daughter Kennedi in 2002.

“It’s amazing how fast it goes,” Draper said, borrowing a line from Lou Gehrig. “I consider myself one of the luckiest athletes of all time, to play for this organization for 17 years. And to be able to play over 1,000 games with the Red Wings is probably what I’m most proud of.”

Draper also granted more interviews and participated in more charity events and hospital visits and youth clinics, probably, than any player in franchise history. (“He stands for everything that’s right about people and about the game,” general manager Ken Holland said.) And it wasn’t just that he thanked everyone from the building manager to the food-service staff to the security guards to the parking-lot attendants Tuesday. It’s that he thanked most of them by name.

“Why wouldn’t I?” Draper said, adding that the way he saw it, “we all worked in the same office together.”

Ken Holland duly noted that Draper took on a thankless job as a fourth-line checking center and simply refused to relinquish what was his…

“Some people sit in that role for a while and then they want to go somewhere else because they want a bigger role,” Holland said. “He never left. Some people leave because they want more money. He never left. What’s special about him? I think he understood, he sacrificed, and he was so incredibly proud to play for the Red Wings.”

Because of that, the Wings have ensured that Osgood, Maltby and now Draper will remain with the team as part of their front office, so while Draper stated the painfully obvious to the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa...

“The bottom line is, I’m really going to miss being a hockey player,” said Draper, who issued a number of assertions since last season about wanting to return. “I’m really going to miss throwing on ‘Draper, 33.’ I loved it. The good thing is, I was always on a winning team here. It might have been different if I wasn’t on winning team. I might have been a different person. But we’ve had so much success, here.”

The Red Wings understand that when a player’s leadership and/or personality is irreplaceable, you don’t replace them—you hold onto those “company men” to ensure that their successors understand the right way to play, the right way to prepare off the ice and the right way to act as a professional athlete, a public figure, a Red Wing and, to some extent, a human being:

“Today is a day, for me, of mixed emotions,” Holland said, speaking of Draper’s retirement. “He stands for everything that’s right about people and about the game. It’s hard to lose those people. Last week, it was Chris Osgood. Nine months ago, it was Kirk Maltby. It’s somebody else’s time, obviously. I think Drapes can still play. But we talked last week and as an organization we need young people to take older people’s jobs, at some point in time.

“I think at the end of the day, (Draper’s) making a decision where the organization is part of the decision, too. He knows that there are people there that are probably either taking his job or evolving into the role that he had. And he understands after we had talked many times over the last six weeks that that has to happen in pro sports.”

And like Osgood and Maltby, Draper exited with consummate class and civility, reveling in the glory. talked about carving out a role as a grinder for a team often the most talented, during the years he played.

“I didn’t want to go away,” Draper said of his work ethic and determination to remain on the roster. “I didn’t want to leave this building. I didn’t want to leave this organization. I was motivated.”

Some of that desire plainly is still there. But many victories were won.

“I consider myself to be one of the luckiest athletes of all time, to be able to play with this organization for 17 years,” Draper said. “To be able to play over a thousand games with the Red Wings is probably the thing I’m most proud of, and it’s been great. There’s sadness because this is all I know. I love this game. I love everything about it. … I’m going to miss it tremendously.”

But when finding yourself in exclusive company, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted...

Draper played in 1,137 games for the Red Wings, which ranks fifth on their all-time list, behind the distinguished quartet of Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom.

“When you see the list, the company that I’m in, you kind of shake your head,” Draper said. “The other thing I’m most proud of is the playoff games played.”

Only Lidstrom has appeared in more playoff games (258) as a Red Wing than Draper (220). Draper is one of just five players who played on each of Detroit’s four Stanley Cup-winning teams since 1997. Lidstrom, Darren McCarty, Kirk Maltby and Tomas Holmstrom are the others.

Yielded dealing with the incredible difficulty that is finding yourself scratched so that others can play…

“The toughest thing for me was being a healthy scratch,” Draper said. “I’m very proud, very competitive and when that happens, I’d like to think I handled it the right way, but it just burned inside that I wasn’t going to play. Those are the kind of things I didn’t know if I could mentally handle again.”

Holland said the torch eventually must be passed to younger players.

“It’s a struggle for me as a manager and a struggle for him as a player because I know how important he is to the locker room,” Holland said. “I believe he still has some hockey left. But at the end of the day, it’s difficult losing 27- or 25-year-olds for 40-year-old players.”

Maltby’s chosen to, for the moment, anyway, scout the Wings’ opponents, to instigate, as was his on-ice wont. Chris Osgood, the only goaltender the Wings successfully groomed to win a Stanley Cup that actually did so since Terry Sawchuk, will continue to mentor Jimmy Howard and groom the Wings’ up-and-coming prospects for the incredibly difficult job that is stopping pucks on an irregular basis under tremendous scrutiny in Detroit. And Draper, well…Draper wants to be at the heart of the team going forward, so Ken Holland will take on another charge in the management department, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted:

Even before he retired as a player Tuesday, the Wings had Draper lined up to take a job in the front office. Draper will follow the path taken by Steve Yzerman rather than that of Chris Osgood. Whereas Osgood, who retired last week, is going to be involved in developing young players, Draper has chosen the business side of hockey.

“I’m going to miss everything about the game, because I loved playing,” Draper said during his news conference at Joe Louis Arena. “But the fact is, I’m still going to be around hockey, I’m still going to be around the game, I’m still going to be here.”

Much like Yzerman—now the Tampa Bay Lightning general manager—did during his first year after retiring in the summer of ‘06, Draper will spend the next season listening.

“He needs to learn the business a little bit,” Holland said. “This year he needs to learn what an American League player looks like, what a college player looks like, what does Riley Sheahan look like? Come to the World Juniors. Sit at the amateur meetings in January, sit at the amateur meetings in May, sit at the amateur meetings at the draft, come to the pro meetings. Sit in a room as we’re leading up to the trade deadline. Just get a feel for how we operate. I’ll think of a title for him, but I think it’s a lot like Stevie his first year. Learn the business from the inside.”
Draper spoke to Yzerman during the morning drive to the Joe.

“He really just said, enjoy the day, and then complimented me on my career,” Draper said. “I just wanted to thank him for everything that he did for me. I got to play with one of the greatest players of all time and, to me, the greatest leader of all time. He definitely impacted and influenced my career, on and off the ice.”

For Maltby, attending Tuesday’s presser wasn’t as much a “welcome” as much as it was an act of support, as he told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...

“I’m just glad to be here for him today,” Maltby said. “It’s bittersweet because I lived this whole situation a year ago. I went to camp and decided afterwards. I think that was a tough part for him to decide if he wanted to do that or not. He wanted to go out on his terms and I don’t blame him. It’s going to be a good enjoyable summer for him.”
“It was great playing with him,” Maltby said. “He’s a great friend and a great teammate. I told him whatever decision he made it was going to be the right one. I’m glad he’s staying in the organization so I’ll still get to see him quite a bit,” Maltby added. “We’ll always have the memories, the pictures, the rings and the Cups to remember it. But everyone has to move on sooner or later.”

And Holland stated something that’s much less painfully obvious than what was going to happen on Tuesday…

“I think he’s going to be a fabulous executive,” Holland said. “He needs to build relationships, get an understanding of how an organization works.”

Draper reminisced about his “bests”...

“Playing in 1,000 games is something I’m proud of, but playing in 1,000 games as a Red Wing is something I’m really proud of,” Draper said. “When you see the list and the company that I’m in, you kind of shake your head at it. The other thing I’m most proud of is the playoff games played. A buddy said I’m ninth all-time.”
“I’m going to miss everything about it,” Draper said. “For sure I’m going to have those days of wanting to play, miss going to lunch and being on the road with the guys. That’s everything I enjoyed. But I’m still going to be around the game and be here. I was given a tremendous opportunity by Kenny Holland and Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch.”
“Most memorable goal was in the ’98 Stanley Cup finals,” said Draper, who scored in overtime of Game 2 against the Washington Capitals. “I’ll never forget, to be able to score a big goal like that in the Stanley Cup finals. It put us up 2-0.

“Personally, winning the Selke is something I’m proud of, to have my name on the same trophy as Bob Gainey, Pavel Datsyuk, Steve Yzerman,” Draper added. “I’m glad I was able to win before Pav decided to dominate.”

While admitting that he’d consulted with the Wings’ present and future before making his decision, as he told the Free Press’s St. James...

To retire was difficult, because Draper wanted to play another season. But with 14 forwards slotted for next season and Draper now 40, retirement was the only option.

He reached that epiphany during a golfing trip this month with teammates such as Chris Osgood, who retired last week, Danny Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg.

“I said to Henrik Zetterberg, I think I might retire,” Draper said. “We had a great talk. I talked to Ozzie, let him know what I was thinking. I never wanted to say the word, I never really wanted to think about that, but the more I thought about it, the more I talked to my wife and family, it seemed the right thing to do.

“The bottom line is, I’m really going to miss being a hockey player. I’m really going to miss throwing on Draper 33. I loved it.”

And the Wings will miss him, too, as (again) USA Today’s Kevin Allen suggested:

No one garnered more respect than Yzerman in the Detroit room, but I don’t believe there was a more popular player than Draper. He has an infectious, charming personality. He was always in the middle of the jokes, and Draper could throw one-liners as effectively as checks. Any reporter doing a story on any member of the Red Wings would stop first to see Draper because he would always have a story, often funny, that provided insight into that teammate’s personality.

Former Red Wings beat writer Viv Bernstein wrote on Facebook Monday that Draper is one of the five nicest people she has met while in the sportswriting business.

I will take that one step further: I’ve covered the NHL longer than Draper has been in the NHL, and I don’t believe I could name a player classier or more considerate than Draper. Of the countless times I’ve talked to Draper through the years, he has never given me anything less than a thoughtful answer to a question.

Years ago, when I asked Mark Messier why he didn’t seem to mind dealing with the media, he told me that leadership always means standing up for his team on and off the ice. He felt that was an important part of his workload because if he provided answers to the media, then his teammates could simply concentrate on playing the game.

I always felt that Draper believed that being a leader meant being a voice in the Detroit dressing room. That’s why today I say that the Red Wings have lost their voice as well as one of the best defensive forwards the franchise has ever had.

So as eloquently as Kukla’s Korner’s own Phil Coffey, NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman, SI’s Stu Hackel (stacked with YouTube highlights galore), ESPN’s Scott Burnside and Red Wings social media director Jake Duhaime, among many, many others, paid tribute to Draper’s career, legacy and character, and Draper himself may have summarized his career, as noted by the QMI News Agency...

Draper won Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008 and became only the fifth player, after Alex Delvecchio, Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom, to play 1,000 games in a Red Wings uniform.

Early in his career, he, Kirk Maltby and Joey Kocur formed the Grind Line, and Draper excelled at killing penalties.

Draper also played internationally for Canada, winning gold medals at the 2003 world championship and 2004 World Cup of Hockey. He was a member of the Canadian team at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.

He became the third Red Wing to retire since the end of the 2010-11 season, following Brian Rafalski and Chris Osgood.

“I never thought I was going to last this long,” Draper said. “I never thought I was going to be with the greatest organization, the Detroit Red Wings.”

The question isn’t, “What now?” as much as it is, “Who now?”

I’ll respectfully disagree with Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien in suggesting that Justin Abdelakder, Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves or Drew Miller should literally succeed the “Grind Line”—aside from the Datsyuk-and-Zetterberg combinations, we rarely see “lines” stay together, or pairings really last in anything other than situational senses (see: Helm and Eaves on the PK), but I do know that while Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk run the Red Wings’ ship…

Without Draper, the Wings need more than a few players to step up and keep their crew-mates in line, as the Sporting News’s Craig Custance suggests:

Lidstrom is the captain and unquestioned leader of the Red Wings, but he wasn’t always who coach Mike Babcock or Holland leaned on to get a message across. There were times the coach or GM would pull Draper aside and let him know they weren’t happy. Draper made sure the word was spread. Sometimes Draper took it upon himself to make sure the players in that room played to a certain standard. He’s a positive, upbeat guy, but [Danny] Cleary remembers one game in New Jersey when Draper was anything but.

“He had a little bit of a snap show—more than normal,” Cleary said. “We were playing bad, he said a few things and we ended up winning. That was pretty cool, things kind of turned around.”

Now, that voice is gone. Like Yzerman and Chelios and Maltby and Osgood. He’ll still be around, but it won’t be the same. It can’t be. If the Red Wings want to break their streak of second-round playoff exits, a new voice must emerge. Considering how much Draper liked to talk, Cleary joked it’s more than a one-man job.

“It’s going to take a couple of us to fill his one voice,” Cleary said, smiling.

Then he got serious.

“Listen, it’s probably going to fall on myself, Hank, probably [Niklas] Kronwall, too,” he said. “We’ll be OK.”

We’ve heard the suggestions for a while now, that alongside Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Datsyuk, who shared the alternate/assistant captain’s “A” with Draper in a rotation, will step up, that Cleary, Abdelkader, Helm, Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall were all leaders, and that Jimmy Howard’s got a bit of Osgood in him, too, but now we’re going to really find out what the Wings’ would-be leaders are made of.

To some extent, that’s the plan:

“There’s people in there who have it in them but they didn’t have to do it,” Holland said. “Kris was the conscience of the Red Wings. I also believe there are other players out there up to the challenge.”

As nothing more, less, or other than a partisan Red Wings fan, I sure hope so.


Photos: The Detroit News posted a 79-image Draper gallery, the Detroit Free Press posted a 24-image Draper gallery, the Windsor Star posted a 9-image gallery and Fox Sports Detroit posted a 6-image gallery, too, but the Red Wings’ website’s Draper gallery?

It’s still broken after “leaking” the news of Draper’s retirement on Monday.

Audio: Draper spoke to WDFN’s Ryan Ermanni...

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The Fan 590’s Bob McCown...

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And, via RedWingsFeed, NHL’s XM Home Ice crew:

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Ken Holland also spoke to WBBL’s Bill Simonson:

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Video: Here’s the Wings’ website’s clip of Draper’s presser…

Darren McCarty spoke about Draper’s career…


As did fellow linemate Kirk Maltby…


And Danny Cleary, Brian Rafalski and Justin Abdelkader were just some of Draper’s many teammates, past and present, who showed up at the presser to support their friend:


97.1 the Ticket’s Mike Stone spoke to Draper…


WXYZ posted a two-minute clip…


And then a full eight-minute interview which WXYZ’s Don Shane conducted with Draper:


The Windsor Star posted clips of Darren McCarty talking about his linemate…


And Draper’s post-retirement speech scrum:


WJBK Fox 2 also posted a clip of Draper’s presser:


Kris Draper Retires from the NHL: MyFoxDETROIT.com

And TSN posted three videos, including a “classic” Draper commercial for TSN, in their Draper retirement story.

I’ll leave reading the select list of players who’ve won 4 Cups with the Wings and ways in which the Free Press will remember Draper, which count as “intangibles,” to you.

Also of Red Wings-related note: Via RedWingsFeed, Capgeek.com is reporting that the Red Wings re-signed their last restricted free agent, Francis Pare, to a 2-year contract extension worth $105,000 at the AHL level and $525,000 and then $590,000 at the NHL level;

• As Sportsline’s Adam Gretz notes, the Pittsburgh Penguins have given Jason Williams a 1-year, 2-way contract;

• In case you didn’t already know it, NHL.com’s John Kreiser tells us that Pavel Datsyuk is one of the NHL’s “shootout kings”;

• And finally, NHL.com’s Frozen Moment of the Day, which you can check out directly here, is pretty damn cool.

4:25 AM. One more glimpse at the stars. Here’s wishing that we don’t have to deal with any more retirements of heart-and-soul Wings for the rest of the summer.

Update: Dammit, it would figure: Aftonbladet’s paid “Plus” service promises an in-depth conversation with Nicklas Lidstrom, using the following “teaser”:

“Haven’t changed my mind once I began training”

Stockholm: He has just gone from interval to sprint training. It was precisely the sort of effort Nicklas Lidstrom debated in the spring, wondering if he’d have motivation to train for another summer.

But yes, the legendary 41-year-old’s engaging in pre-season training again, as eager as a teenager.

“It’s just as hard as I knew it would be, but it’s going well, too. So I haven’t regretted my decision to go on even once, says “Lidas” when Sportbladet comes to visit his home in Vasteras.

Can any Swedish-speakers lend a blogger a hand here? I don’t mind paying for the article, but I do question giving credit card information to a website’s service when I can’t understand it without translation, especially given that “Plus” is something like 290-299 Kronor per year ($45 or so) without an option to buy a single article…

Update #2: Hockeykanalen.se posted an interview with Lidstrom from TV 4, but it’s not viewable outside of Sweden.

Oh well, it’s 4:46 now…No more international news as far as I can tell.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


Seaner in Sharkville's avatar

Nice recap, George. Congrats to Draper for a great career and thanks for providing us fickle fans with so many great memories over the years. Personally, I’d like to see #33 in the rafters some day.

Posted by Seaner in Sharkville from Silicon Valley on 07/27/11 at 06:36 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

1. Work on that lake stare, sir.

2. mike C’s got some big shoes to fill

this will be fun…

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 07/27/11 at 06:48 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

Wait… 1 in 5 players to play 1000 games for the Wings?  Shouldn’t that be an automatic number in the rafters?!?

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 07/27/11 at 06:54 AM ET


Second the lake stare suggestion from Hippy Dave, or better yet, Star stare the way it sounds tonight. You deserve it.
1000 games might get your name in the rafters, but it has to get you free Crazy Bread for life, no?

Posted by Bugsy on 07/27/11 at 07:22 AM ET


Thanks, George. One of my big Draper moments—one of the last former Wpg Jets, by the way—was his scoring with his teeth in the Stanley Cup final of 2008 against Pittsburgh. My memory may be a bit hazy on this so I’d appreciate if any readers could fine tune it. It seems to me it was the final series when he took the puck off his teeth and into the net.

To me, it’s one of those Red Wing goals etched in memor—like Darren McCarty dekeing like Steve Yzerman to score that game-winner against Phillie in the 1997 Stanley Cup.

Posted by manitobaredwingfan on 07/27/11 at 09:57 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I watched the presser yesterday, but reading this recap made me cry again.  Thanks, George - I think.  smile

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 07/27/11 at 10:39 AM ET

SandysWingingit's avatar

I went through more than a few tissues, too! He was so likeable and such a huge part of the successful ride the Red Wings have enjoyed while he was here. Dang it… here I go again…

Posted by SandysWingingit on 07/27/11 at 11:08 AM ET

AndrewFromAnnArbor's avatar

This is a big day, and a sad one.  Regardless of whether the guy could even set foot on the ice again, he’ll be missed by his mere presence.  Thanks for the great write-up, George.  Many more thanks to Drapes himself.  Regarding retiring his number, it might be more appropriate to simply take it out of circulation like they have with Aurie and Konstantinov’s, but maybe I’ll just point everyone to the thread we had on this on A2Y a few years ago:


I think all that needed to be said was said then, and I think the first guy who would be wholly against retiring Kris Draper’s number would be Kris Draper.

Now go walk those singing sands and take some real vacation time, George.

Posted by AndrewFromAnnArbor from Fortress Europe on 07/27/11 at 11:16 AM ET


George, you’ve done an excellent job covering the retirement of one of the great Red Wings of this era.  Thank you!

Now, one thing I noticed is how many non-Detroit area writers have given Draper’s retirement major coverage.  It is not often that a guy who averaged fewer than 10 goals a season gets this kind of ink.  The hockey writers realize how special Kris Draper is as a man and was as a Red Wing.

No doubt, he will be missed.  I hope he has succeeded in passing on to the youngsters like Helm, Abdelkader and Mursak what it means to be a Red Wing and how to fulfill this roll.


Posted by DocF from Reidsville, NC on 07/27/11 at 11:17 AM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

New tag for #33 TPH -2

Posted by Rdwings28 on 07/27/11 at 11:32 AM ET

red_wings_49's avatar

Damn great update George.  So much for not being connected to technology eh?  lol.

Posted by red_wings_49 from Mad Heights, MI on 07/27/11 at 12:25 PM ET

EDJ's avatar


Have you linked this page?


Posted by EDJ on 07/27/11 at 12:37 PM ET


manitobaredwingfan - The mouth goal came against Dallas in the WCF. Draper did score in game 1 of the SCF, though (I was there smile).

Posted by RyanVM on 07/27/11 at 12:38 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

The stars in Grand Marais are so ridiculously brilliant and bright

In God’s Country I see, George.

Welcome, but don’t tell too many people about it up here…we like it that way wink

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 07/27/11 at 12:50 PM ET


having Red Wing very literally tattooed onto their heart.

I seriously doubt he has an actual tattoo on his heart. Sorry for being the grammar police, but this he “literally” did something upsets me.

Posted by Mike on 07/27/11 at 01:01 PM ET

Number9Loyalist's avatar

Nice work on this post, thanks! 

Now go be on vacation for the balance of the week!  #9

Posted by Number9Loyalist on 07/27/11 at 03:21 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

but this he “literally” did something upsets me.
Posted by Mike on 07/27/11 at 11:01 AM ET

I’m sure that’s only figuratively.

Most of us are neither bothered nor look for grammatical edits among the thousands of words that the English-language degreed author of this blog writes each day, especially written at 4 in the morning while he’s on his first vacation in two years.

But if that’s the thing you take away from this extraordinary summary and vast number of linked-in news sources he has provided concerning one of the watershed events in the recent history of this storied franchise, you go right ahead if that’s the one thing that stirs you about this thread.

Posted by RWBill on 07/27/11 at 03:44 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

From JJ at WIIM-

Commodore 64 is over…he’s doing a retread of Leb-duh. Here’s to hoping this #22 does more than skate around in circles and shoot pucks into defensemen.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 07/27/11 at 03:50 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Posted by RWBill from Imported from Detroit, 17 year home of Kris Draper on 07/27/11 at 01:44 PM ET

Well said.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 07/27/11 at 03:51 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Posted by mrfluffy from Long Beach on 07/27/11 at 01:50 PM ET

Thanks for that news and I for one am relieved.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 07/27/11 at 03:52 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

From JJ at WIIM-

Commodore 64 is over…he’s doing a retread of Leb-duh. Here’s to hoping this #22 does more than skate around in circles and shoot pucks into defensemen.

Posted by mrfluffy from Long Beach on 07/27/11 at 01:50 PM ET

Source is a Tweet from Bill Roose.

Take it at common Twitter face value for breaking news, but also know that Bill Roose is pretty damn trustworthy.  If I had to give this one an accuracy score, it would be in the 90% range.

Big question becomes which disappoints people more, Commodore taking 22 or Ian White wearing Maltby’s number?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 07/27/11 at 03:57 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Big question becomes which disappoints people more, Commodore taking 22 or Ian White wearing Maltby’s number?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 07/27/11 at 01:57 PM ET

The second one.  Seems a bit soon.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 07/27/11 at 04:06 PM ET


Dammit George, stop making me cry. Sersly. I cannot take it anymore. Ozzie was heartbreaking, but both Oz and Drapes in a week’s span? Then And B-Raf to the pile, and throw ing the fact taht only Nic and Homer are left from the original glory days????  It makes me want to slit—-Claude le Pew’s——wrists.

Posted by Juice from LA on 07/27/11 at 04:18 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

I’m happy Commodore has the stones to stick with 22.  He handled the situation perfectly.  I know from correspondence with him that he did not like the idea personally but was put in an awkward situation by an internet Douchebag.  Major congrats to Commodore for handling the situation with great tact.

Posted by RWBill on 07/27/11 at 09:04 PM ET

thethirdcoast's avatar

I disagree slightly on the “sea change”. For me, it will occur when Homer and TPH finally hang them up. Then we will have truly witnessed the close of an incredible 30 year era in Red Wing hockey that began with the arrival of a young Steve Yzerman.

Big ups to Commodore for picking a number other than 64 and not caving into Internet trolls that were out to exploit him and the Red Wings’ organization for their own aggrandizement.

Posted by thethirdcoast from Rochester, NY on 07/27/11 at 10:30 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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