Tomorrow Kris Draper is reportedly set to say his tearful good-bye to the NHL at a press conference, and when he does hockey will lose its last link to a wild and bloodied era of Red Wings hockey.
We’ll be witnessing the end of the Grind Line.
Kirk Maltby retired last October prior to the 2010-11 season when it became clear there wasn’t a roster spot available for him in Detroit. That left Draper as the last remaining link to a hard-nosed line established by Scotty Bowman in late 90′s. Originally consisting of Draper, Maltby, and Joey Kocur–who was later replaced by Darren McCarty–the line was Bowman’s response to the Legion of Doom line in Philadelphia. The Grind Line’s ability to agitate led to Draper getting his face re-arranged by Claude Lemieux, or maybe that was just Lemieux being a dirty prick.
In this era of the nightly headshot debate, we may never see a Grind Line again, or at least not one that matches the regular brutality of Draper et al. ‘Tis the plight of the progressive thinking hockey fan who’s conscious of head injuries and sees little need for players whose sole purpose is to chuck ‘nucks, but also enjoys a good Donnybrook. Sigh.
Draper played 1,157 games over his 17-year career, and finishes with 161 goals, 364 points, and 790 penalty minutes. He was a vital cog in the Red Wings’ powerhouse teams that won three championships over a six-year stretch between 1997 and 2002, and also assumed his usual bottom-six grinder role during Detroit’s Stanley Cup in 2008.
On the international scene Draper’s leadership and veteran moxie contributed to gold for Canada at the World Cup of Hockey in 2004, and gold and silver medals at the World Championships. He was also on Canada’s 2006 Olympic men’s hockey team, and he won back-to-back golds at the World Juniors in 1990 and 1991.
Drafted by the original Winnipeg Jets way back in 1989 when Steven Stamkos was still two years away from existing, Draper played only 20 games for the Jets before being dealt to the Motor City for future considerations, which ended up being $1. Not even a silver dollar either. Just a single dollar, the kind that buys four gumballs from the machine at your child’s birthday party, if you’re lucky.
This leaves us all to wonder what would have happened had hockey’s Nostradamus predicted a different future for a young Draper…