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Draper skates with his heroes in Legends Classic

by Tim Wharnsby

TORONTO -- Kris Draper enjoyed plenty of thrills in his 19 pro seasons, but the retired Detroit Red Wings center proved you are never too old to get a kick out of playing the game of hockey.

Draper, 44, participated in the Legends Classic game at Air Canada Centre as part of the Hockey Hall of Fame weekend.

Not only did he score the opening goal in his team's 6-5 shootout win, he got to play alongside two of his childhood heroes, Darryl Sittler and Bryan Trottier -- and against two of his treasured teammates, Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Fedorov and Lidstrom, along with Phil Housley, Chris Pronger, Angela Ruggiero as well as builders Bill Hay and Peter Karmanos Jr., will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday evening.

"It was an absolute honor for me to be part of this," said Draper, now a special assistant to Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

"I remember getting the call to be asked to play in this game and there was no hesitation whatsoever. It's special when Nik and Sergei are going in, and it was nice to be on the ice with those guys again. I had the best seat in the house to see them play all those years with Detroit."

Growing up in Toronto, Draper often imitated former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Sittler and he also watched in awe the success of Trottier and the New York Islanders dynasty.

Draper skated a few shifts with his two heroes during the second half of the game.

"To go out and play with Darryl Sittler, who I idolized growing up in Toronto, was special," Draper said. "Bryan Trottier was one of the best two-way centers in the game.

"The fun part for me was Bryan Trottier. I met him in the hotel and snuck a picture with him. They started their dynasty when I was growing up. To see, what he did in both ends of the rink and the edge he played with was what I remember."

Draper was on Team Doug Gilmour, comprised of Canadian-born players. Fedorov and Lidstrom played on Pavel Bure's team of international players.

Fedorov scored twice and gave his team a 3-2 lead, only to see Gary Leeman and Paul Coffey score in the final minute to tie the game at 5-5.

Pierre Turgeon was the only player to score in the shootout, giving the Canadian legends the win. Ilya Bryzgalov played goal for the Bure side; former Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco played for the winning team.

"Guess who the last Stars goalie was to win in this building was?" Turco said jokingly as he came off the ice.

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