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After 20 NHL seasons, Draper retires

by Todd Beam / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Kris Draper, a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008, announced today that he will retire from the National Hockey League after 20 seasons.  Draper appeared in 1,157 regular-season games, 222 postseason contests (ninth all-time in NHL history) and made six trips to the Stanley Cup finals during his career.

Kris Draper in Photographs

Draper, 40, was originally a third-round pick (62nd overall) of the Winnipeg Jets in the 1989 NHL draft. He made his NHL debut with the Jets on Oct. 4, 1990, scoring his first career goal and picking up his first fighting major in a 7-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The 5-foot-11, 190-pound center played 20 games for Winnipeg from 1990-91 through 1992-93 before the Jets traded him to Detroit on June 30, 1993 in exchange for future considerations.

Draper would spend the next 17 seasons donning the winged wheel in the Motor City. He split time between Adirondack (AHL) and Detroit in 1993-94, but became a fixture in the Red Wings lineup during the second half of the season. Recognized for his speed and relentless effort, he played the pivot on what became known as the ‘Grind Line’ with Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty and, early on, Joe Kocur. They formed one of the most revered lines in Red Wings history and played an integral role in helping Detroit end a 42-year drought by capturing the 1997 Stanley Cup with a sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers. The ‘Grind Line’ was at it again in 1998, checking the top lines of opponents, killing penalties and wearing down opposing defenses en route to Detroit’s second consecutive title with a four-game sweep of the Washington Capitals. Draper scored perhaps the biggest goal of his NHL career when he buried the game-winner at 4:36 of overtime in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Capitals that year. Draper, Maltby and McCarty join Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom as the only players to hoist the Cup in each of Detroit’s last four championships.

The Toronto, Ontario, native was effective again in a supporting role as the talent-laden 2001-02 Red Wings marched through the regular-season and playoffs to claim the 10th Stanley Cup in franchise history. Draper was one of three Red Wings to play in all 82 games that season and also suited up for all 23 postseason contests. A penalty killer extraordinaire and face-off specialist, Draper continually supplied the Red Wings with all of the intangibles necessary to produce championship caliber teams. This was a big reason he was named as an assistant captain prior to the 2006-07 season.

“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.”

Draper enjoyed the best statistical season of his career in 2003-04. He registered career-highs with 24 goals, 40 points and five shorthanded goals in just 67 games. Despite the jump in his offensive production, his defensive responsibilities never wavered and Draper was rewarded with the 2004 Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward.

On Feb. 2, 2009, Draper became just the 235th player in NHL history to play in 1,000 career games when the Red Wings played host to the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena. Six weeks later, on March 17 against Philadelphia, he became just the fifth player in team history to play 1,000 games in a Red Wings sweater, joining Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Steve Yzerman and Lidstrom.  His postseason longevity is equally impressive. Draper never missed the playoffs in his 17 years with Detroit and appeared in 220 postseason games for the Red Wings, second in club history behind Lidstrom (258).

Draper also found success at the international level throughout his career. He represented his native Canada at numerous IIHF competitions including the World Junior Championships (1990-gold, 1991-gold), the World Championships (2003-gold, 2005-silver), the World Cup of Hockey (2004-gold) and the Olympic Winter Games (2006).
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