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Veteran core provides Detroit's winning foundation

Thursday, 10.09.2008 / 4:04 PM / NHL Face-Off 2008

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

DETROIT – For anyone involved with the Detroit Red Wings’ run to the 2008 Stanley Cup championship, Thursday night’s pre-game festivities at Joe Louis Arena will be an unforgettable experience.

For 5 players on the Wings’ roster, it will be the fourth time they get to partake in such a special event. Remarkably, in an age that features constant movement and salary cap casualties, 5 men have been in Motown for the 4 Stanley Cups that have been won since 1997.

Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Tomas Holmstrom and Darren McCarty have been fortunate to earn a quartet of titles together. Whether or not they win No. 5 this season remains to be seen. Yet, even if they don’t, they’ll have stories to share with friends and loved ones for the rest of their lives.
  
"Obviously, I feel very fortunate to win 4 Stanley Cups," Maltby told NHL.com. "But to be able to do it with 4 of the same guys, I think that’s a special thing. I think it’s something when I’m done playing that when my kids are older, or my grandkids, I’ll be able to look back and reflect on that. You really appreciate it."
  
Certainly, it helps to be annual contenders when it’s time to sit down at the bargaining table. But for the most part, Red Wings GM Ken Holland has been able to avoid losing some of his key players to free agency – and that’s because nobody really has any desire to leave.
  
After all, why would they?

"I think it shows that guys want to stay here," said Lidstrom, who became the first European captain to hoist Lord Stanley last June. "Guys have signed mid-season instead of waiting until July. You might be able to get a better deal elsewhere, but that’s why guys have stayed here.

"Guys have had a chance to go elsewhere, but they wanted to be a part of a winning team and a winning organization. Players really like to play here, and that’s why we’ve had a lot of guys stay here."

Draper said he feels fortunate to have the opportunity to experience so much success in Detroit after the franchise acquired him from the Winnipeg Jets for – drum roll, please – $1 in 1993. Fifteen years later, he gets to enjoy his fourth banner-raising ceremony before pursuing a fifth championship.
  
"It’s very rewarding," Draper said. "The 5 of us are proud of being a part of the 4 championships that we’ve put up here in the last 11 years. And we feel we’re not done. That’s the exciting thing. We have a great group in here again. You knew Nick Lidstrom was going to be a Wing for life, but you look at the other 4 – myself, Holmer, Malts and Mac – with the style that we play and the players that we are, you just kind of move on. It’s very rare.

"We’ve been here for so long, and it’s something that we’re proud of. The loyalty from management to us has been much appreciated. We feel we’ve pretty good on the return side. You don’t hear too often about role players being in the same city for so long, and that’s something that we’re all proud of." -- Kris Draper

"We’ve been here for so long, and it’s something that we’re proud of. The loyalty from management to us has been much appreciated. We feel we’ve pretty good on the return side. You don’t hear too often about role players being in the same city for so long, and that’s something that we’re all proud of."
  
Coach Mike Babcock smiled as wide as the Detroit River when asked what it says about the organization to have 5 players win 4 titles during an 11-year stretch.

It was not surprising that he quickly handed the credit to Holland and the rest of the Wings’ diligent front office staff.
  
"It’s pretty special," Babcock said. "Obviously, they’re good players and they bring things. Our club is one that’s evolving all the time.

"When they won the Cup the first time, maybe their role was different from when they won the fourth time. When I look at the process here, obviously Kenny Holland’s done a fantastic job of leadership. The guys who get us players give us an opportunity for success. If you don’t have players, you have no opportunity."
  
Holmstrom, 35, is one of many players who have properly developed under Detroit’s guidance. After appearing in just one postseason game in 1997, he helped the Red Wings repeat as championships the following year by going 7-12-19 in 22 playoff contests. He had 20 goals and 20 assists in 59 games last season before piling up another 12 points in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
  
Clearly, the opportunity to win is the biggest reason why he’s decided to forever stay in Motown.
  
"You can see guys who come here, they want to win," Holmstrom said. "They stay here and they think they’ve got a bigger chance to win. That’s why I stay. I want to win. It’s first-class all the way, from the ownership all the way down."
  
 
 
McCarty is the only player of the five who briefly left Detroit, as he played for the Calgary Flames from 2005-07. In his first season back with the Red Wings, they won another championship. He’s ready to continue to provide that lucky charm, but it certainly helps that his coaches and teammates mean business.
  
"We have to take the banner-raising for what it is and enjoy that moment," McCarty said. "But you’ll see once it’s done, there will be no slow start for us. We’ll be focused and ready. Being a professional and being in this situation before, we know what it’s going to be like so that there’s no lull before the drop of the puck."
  
Just another day at the office.

More often than not during the past 11 years, these guys have left work with a smile on their faces. Four championships – and the friendships they’ve built – will do that.
  
"When you’re around some guys so long, it’s awesome," Holmstrom said. "We have so much fun together. It’s really special."

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.
Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers