– Never at a loss for words, Kirk Maltby was uncharacteristically speechless and held back tears as he announced his retirement on Tuesday.
Maltby, who will remain with the organization as a pro scout, played 14 seasons in Detroit after joining the team in March 1996.
In addition to winning four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, he is tied with Sergei Fedorov for seventh on the franchise’s all-time games-played list with 908. He also played in 169 playoff games.
“Being drafted in 1992, I was just kind of happy to be around and happy playing hockey,” Maltby said. “I never would have thought that 18 years later, I’d be part of four Stanley Cups and have played over a thousand games. I feel truly privileged for what my career has brought me.
“I came here in 1996 and wasn’t sure where I belonged in this organization. It was a team at that particular time that was breaking records for wins and points and whatnot. And now, I have roots here, this is my home, this is where my kids are going to have their home ... I’m very honored.”
Maltby, whom Wings general manager Ken Holland called “an unbelievable human being,” made sure he thanked everyone who supported him throughout his career, to the family he lived with while playing junior hockey to the Wings’ equipment managers. He jokingly included the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him No. 65 overall in 1992, for trading him to Detroit.
In a testament to Maltby as a person and a teammate, every current Wings player was at the press conference in the media center at Joe Louis Arena prior to Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Maltby gave a special thanks to teammates Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Tomas Holmstrom
and Nicklas Lidstrom
, saying, “I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys to go to war with every day, year in and year out.”
Maltby made a career out of being a role player and a fan favorite as a member of the famed Grind Line with Draper and Darren McCarty.
“When you’re going to win come playoff time, you need skill, you need character, but you also need players who are going to go to the trenches and do the dirty work,” Holland said. “And certainly the Grind Line and Kirk did the dirty work for us.”
Maltby accepted, and even embraced his position, saying, “I kind of knew what my role was. Penalty-killing, more of a defensive force. On our line, we were able to contribute a little bit on the offensive side, which I think to be successful and win Stanley Cups, you need that little bit of contribution from your third and fourth lines. I was a pain in the ass, but I didn’t mind giving those shots. I know I took my share of shots too, and I didn’t mind that part.”
Despite fighting back his emotions, Maltby said the decision to hang up his skates was easier than it seemed.
“It was an easier decision, although it may not have seemed like it today when I was talking,” he said. “But I’m very comfortable with it, I wanted to watch my kids grow up. It’s tough, I’m going to miss the game, I’m going to miss being around the guys. I think that’s going to be the hardest.”
While he’ll miss the routine of being at the rink and hanging with his teammates, Maltby is excited to contribute to the organization from the front office and spend more time with his family.
“I look forward to my future starting as a scout with the Wings and spending time with my family and watching my children grow,” he said.
Maltby finishes his NHL career with 128 goals, 132 assists, and 260 points in 1,072 games-played, along with 867 penalty-minutes.