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Four-time Cup winner Draper calls it a career

by Adam Kimelman /
Taking the time to thank everyone from the general manager who brought him to Detroit to the chef who made his omelets every morning, Red Wings forward Kris Draper announced his retirement during a press conference Tuesday.

"I loved everything about the game and everything about the Red Wings and that's why I'm going to miss it so much," said Draper.

"I know how fortunate I am to play this game, to live my dream out. I had one dream and that was to play in the NHL. I never thought I was going to last this long, never thought I was going to be with the greatest organization in the world, the Detroit Red Wings."

Draper, who won four Stanley Cups in 17 seasons with the Red Wings and rose to prominence as a member of the "Grind Line," will remain with the team in a front-office role.

"Kris Draper has represented the Detroit Red Wings with nothing but class and dedication for the last 17 years. His extraordinary work ethic has provided a great example for all players within our organization and his influence on the young players in our system will be felt for years to come. I cannot thank Kris enough for all he has done for us. He is a true professional."
-- Red Wings' GM Ken Holland

The 40-year-old Draper is the third member of the team to retire since the end of the 2010-11 season, joining defenseman Brian Rafalski, who retired in May, and goaltender Chris Osgood, who made his announcement last Tuesday.

Draper leaves the game as one of five players in team history to play 1,000 games with the franchise, with his 1,137 games trailing Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and former teammates Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Draper totaled 158 goals and 203 assists with the Wings, and won the 2004 Selke Trophy as the League's best defensive forward.

He's also second all-time to Lidstrom in playoff games for the franchise at 220. He has 24 goals and 22 assists in his Detroit playoff career.

In addition to his four Cups, Draper also played a major role in Canada hockey success internationally. He won World Junior Championship gold medals in 1990 and 1991, World Championship gold in 2003 and silver in 2005, and a World Cup gold medal in 2004. He also played for Canada at the 2006 Olympics.

"Kris Draper has represented the Detroit Red Wings with nothing but class and dedication for the last 17 years," said Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland. "His extraordinary work ethic has provided a great example for all players within our organization and his influence on the young players in our system will be felt for years to come. I cannot thank Kris enough for all he has done for us. He is a true professional."

Originally drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the third round of the 1989 Entry Draft, he played just 20 games across parts of three seasons before being traded to the Red Wings for future considerations on June 30, 1993. The Wings famously ended up paying the Jets $1 for Draper.

"I want to thank Bryan Murray and Doug MacLean for making the blockbuster trade to acquire me from Winnipeg for that whopping one dollar," said Draper.

While he welcomed the trade to Detroit, he recalls it being intimidating at first.

"My first thought was at the time I couldn't make the Winnipeg Jets, how am I going to make the Detroit Red Wings?" Draper said. "I just remember once I got the call, I called my trainers and said we've got to take it to the next level. Whatever you guys have, if you want to do two-a-days, whatever it takes. I need to do something. I have an opportunity to be a Detroit Red Wing."

He started the 1993-94 season with Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League, but got the call midway through that season, and once he played his first game with the Red Wings -- Jan. 24, 1994 -- he never left.

"I remember every time I saw a coach or management, if I was on the bike or in the weight room, I started doing more reps, started riding the bikes … I wanted them to hear how hard I'm working," said Draper. "I didn't want to go away. I didn't want to leave this building, I didn't want to leave this organization. I was motivated. It's been unbelievable. I consider myself one of the luckiest athletes of all time to be able to play with this organization for 17 years."

Draper made his biggest mark in the 1997 Stanley Cup Final against Philadelphia, when he centered the "Grind Line," a trio that also included Kirk Maltby and Joey Kocur, which shut down the Flyers' "Legion of Doom" trio of Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg to help the Wings win their first Cup since 1955. That "Grind Line" was a big part of Wings Cup wins in 1998 and 2002, with Darren McCarty replacing Kocur.

"Kris, along with the 'Grind Line' through the late 1990s and early 2000s were an important, key part of our team, checking, chipping in goals, great matchup line, penalty killing," said Holland.

Draper, who credited former Wings equipment manager John Wharton for suggesting the name for the line during the 1997 playoffs, said the trio -- whether it was Draper and Maltby with Kocur or McCarty -- worked because of the confidence coach Scotty Bowman had in the line.

"Scotty Bowman trusted us," said Draper. "He trusted us in a lot of different situations. If you have the confidence of your coach to go out and play in these situations, you want to do it and you want to do it well, you want to do it for your coach, you want to do it for your linemates, you want to do it for your teammates. I think that's why that line was so special."

As important as Draper was on the ice, Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch believed Draper was just as special away from the game.

"Kris is a big asset for the Detroit Red Wings from the standpoint of not only being a great hockey player but a great person and he wants to help everybody," said Ilitch. "He helped our amateur program tremendously. Gordie Howe, going way back when we got started in the '60s, he was there and he helped us and gave us a lot of spirit to keep going with the amateur program, and along comes Draper after Gordie is gone, and I finally had to get to my people and say leave him alone, he's got to have a life. He can't say no and you're taking advantage of his kindness and wanting to help.

"I never dreamt that I would get a player for the cost of a smoothie at McDonalds, but it happened and we're very, very lucky about it."

The Wings also feel lucky to have Draper staying on in a role with the front office.

"On one hand it's a sad day, but on the other hand it's an exciting day because Kris is going to stay in our organization," said Holland. "With all his intangibles and all the things that Kris has stood for throughout his career, he's going to bring that to the rink every day in the front office and I really think he can carve out a tremendous career in the front office."

While the role might not have a precise title yet, Draper said he already has goals and a role model -- Yzerman.

"I talked to Steve Yzerman on the drive in here," said Draper. "When Steve left the game, how he worked with the organization, he brought the passion that he brought every day to the rink as a player, he did that at the next level and now look at him with Tampa. Now I have challenges and there's goals, and I like being a goal-oriented person, and I'm going to set goals for myself."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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