– In hindsight, Dallas Drake’s decision to put off retirement by a year was a stroke of genius, which ultimately led to him raising the Stanley Cup for the first time in his 15-season NHL career.
The decision to accept the Red Wings’ free agency offer to play one more season will pay another dividend when Drake is induction into the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday in Penticton.
“It doesn’t hurt to have a Stanley Cup on your resume, I guess. I think that had a little to do with it,” said Drake of his induction. “My choices were to retire or if Detroit was interested at all that that was the only place that I would have gone to. Deep down, I really felt that they had a really good chance to win a Stanley Cup.”
Drake, who now lives in Traverse City, Michigan, where he is director of hockey for the Grand Traverse Youth Hockey Association, said playing for the Red Wings during their championship run was the most fun that he had has a pro.
“It was a dream come true to play for the Red Wings,” he said. “I never thought that I would play that long. But then to get the chance to come back and play for them … There weren’t a lot of teams that I played on in my 15 years that I really felt that way.”
Drake played for three NHL franchises, including Winnipeg/Phoenix and St. Louis. But with his most-productive offensive seasons behind him, the Cup-winning season in 2008 was the most memorable as he collected a goal and three assists in 22 playoff games.
It was during that playoff run that Wings’ teammates openly confused to wanting to win the Cup for Drake, who averaged 11.8 goals and 20 assists per season in 1,009 career games.
“It was pretty special feeling and speaks to the character of the guys that are in that locker room,” said Drake, 41. “It obviously starts at the top with the Ilitch family. But Nick Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Pavel (Datsyuk) and Z (Henrik Zetterberg
), you realize why those guys are special players.
“They’re all about winning and all about team, and the people of Detroit are very, very lucky to have guys like that in the organization. I played for a long time and you don’t come across superstars who are about winning and sacrificing. Those guys could put up huge stats every year, but all they want to do is win. So it was pretty exciting to hear words from players like that.”
In all, Drake played three seasons for the Red Wings, who drafted him out of Northern Michigan University in 1989. A native of Trail, B.C., Drake helped the Wildcats to the NCAA championship, scoring the title-clinching goal in an 8-7 triple overtime victory over Boston University.
Joining Drake in the induction Class of 2010 are former Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden, Kelowna Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton, and former Hockey Canada chairman Frank Lento.
“I’ll be very nervous, I know that,” Drake said. “I’ll be a little excited for myself because I’ll have my family there. But it’s really interesting to me that Frank Lento is going in. He coached against me in minor hockey when I was growing up, so for me – knowing him when I was growing up – will be a big thrill to be going in with someone like that.”
Drake is the ninth BC Hockey Hall of Fame inductee with ties to the Red Wings’ organization, which includes Ken Holland, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Bobby Kromm, Bob Rouse, Danny Gare, Harold Snepsts and Mel Bridgman.
“Wow, it’s a huge honor to even be remotely mentioned with the likes of those guys,” Drake said. “I didn’t realize that there was that many.”
Glad that he made the decision that he did three years ago, Drake offered up a suggestion to current free agent center Mike Modano, who is considering an offer to play for the Wings this season.
“I would tell him that they are the most unselfish group that you could ever come across,” Drake said. “You’re talking about the best players in the world when you talk about Pavel, Z and Nick. There isn’t a more unselfish group.
“I’ve never been around a group of superstars that approach it like they do. They go about their business; they don’t want to be in the media and just want to win hockey games and championships. … I played 15 years and never had so much fun in my life as I did playing with them.”