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Red Wings linemates enjoy reunion at alumni game

by Tal Pinchevsky

DETROIT -- The Steve Yzerman-led Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup three times in six seasons. When numerous players from those championship teams participated in an alumni game doubleheader Tuesday at Comerica Park, it was a special opportunity to revisit those winning memories.

And on a team that was known for specific line combinations, it was a unique chance to recapture some of that old chemistry.

Even before the game started, former Detroit defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov came out on the ice to pose for a photograph with Viacheslav Fetisov, Sergei Fedorov, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Igor Larionov. Known as the "Russian Five," that five-man unit was a vital piece of those championship teams. Konstantinov was forced to retire following a debilitating car accident after the team won the first of its three Cups in 1997. But his presence inspired a chant of "Vladdy, Vladdy" from the Comerica crowd. And for all five players involved in that pre-game photo, it was a special moment.

"It was so emotional when Vladimir was on the ice," Fetisov said. "For everybody it's a special moment."

The Russian Five had their big moment before the second alumni game, but there was another key unit from those championship teams that enjoyed its own reunion. Known as the "Grind Line," Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty and Joey Kocur provided a hard-nosed style that was embraced by the city of Detroit. Whereas the Russian Five played a style that was a pleasure to watch, the Grind Line played ugly and Red Wings fans loved them for it.

"I think all of us are kind of blue-collar guys. When you hear the name 'Grind Line,' I think the city of Detroit can relate to that," said Draper, who skated alongside his fellow Grind Liners at Comerica. "We were always outgoing guys who went out of our way for the fans and the community. I think we still do that."

Even though they had barely skated together over the past few years, the Grind Line, like the Russian Five, managed to unearth some of their old chemistry.

"With Drapes and Malts and I, it's second nature to know if Malts is going to pop up in the high slot or if I'm going to go to the net," said McCarty, who was overjoyed to be with his old teammates. "I can't think of a better way to bring in the new year. This is the best. You're with guys, teammates and their families that you grew up with and that you love."

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